Australia make changes for NZ clash

Thu, 28 Oct 07:57:00 2010

Australian prop Ben Alexander and winger Drew Mitchell have recovered from injury in time for Saturday's Bledisloe Cup Test against New Zealand in Hong Kong.

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Alexander is fit again after he sustained a knee injury in the win over Fiji in June while Mitchell has overcome a hamstring strain in the only two changes to the Wallabies team from the side that lost by one-point to New Zealand last month.

"It's great to see Ben back after what's been a pretty frustrating period for him," head coach Robbie Deans said.

"Having been injured in our first outing of the year, he's had to sit and watch since, but he's worked hard and he's ready to go."

Mitchell joins Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor to complete the same backline from Australia's two Tests in South Africa.

"We've re-established the back three that did so well for us in South Africa during the year," Deans said.

"Lachie (Turner) did really well for us in Sydney (against the All Blacks) and he's been rewarded with a place on the bench.

"From the team's perspective, the combination that has been so effective throughout the year has now been re-established."

The Wallabies squad retains 13 players from the 22-man squad that contested the last Bledisloe Cup Test in Hong Kong two years ago.

"This test is very important not only in terms of signing off on this year's Bledisloe Cup fixtures but is also important as an entry point into our European excursion... and for that reason alone it's important that we start well," Deans said.

New Zealand fly-half Dan Carter has been recalled to the All Blacks side after recovering from ankle surgery.

Carter is one of four changes to the All Blacks starting XV from the side that beat Australia 23-22 in their final Tri-Nations clash in Sydney last month.

Blindside flanker Jerome Kaino returns for Victor Vito, Jimmy Cowan starts in place of Piri Weepu at scrum-half and winger Joe Rokocoko is set to win his 67th Test cap after taking over from Israel Dagg.

Carter, New Zealand's all-time leading points scorer, had undergone surgery in August to remove loose material from around the ankle joint after carrying the injury through the opening five Tri-Nations tests this year.

His return will only strengthen the Tri-Nations champions, who are on a record run of 10 consecutive victories over their trans-Tasman rivals but All Blacks coach Graham Henry is taking nothing for granted.

"Australia will again present a massive challenge for the All Blacks and we have picked an All Blacks starting side that has done outstandingly well this year," Henry said in a statement.

Hooker Hikawera Elliot is in line for an All Blacks debut after being named on the replacements bench but their is no place in the 22 for rugby league convert Sonny Bill Williams.

The team will once again be led by captain Richie McCaw who will play in his 90th Test, as will full-back Mils Muliaina.

The test is a prelude to New Zealand's tour of Britain and Ireland, which begins against England at Twickenham on November 6.

"This Test is a very important one for the team who are keen to get the Tour off to a good start, and, like all trans-Tasman matches, it will be another huge encounter," Henry said.

Australia: 15-Kurtley Beale, 14-James O'Connor, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Matt Giteau, 11-Drew Mitchell, 10-Quade Cooper, 9-Will Genia; 8-Ben McCalman, 7-David Pocock, 6-Rocky Elsom (captain), 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-Mark Chisholm, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Benn Robinson

Replacements: 16-Saia Faingaa, 17-James Slipper, 18-Dean Mumm, 19-Richard Brown, 20-Luke Burgess, 21-Berrick Barnes, 22-Lachie Turner

New Zealand: 15-Mils Muliaina, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Joe Rokocoko, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Jimmy Cowan; 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Jerome Kaino, 5-Tom Donnelly, 4-Brad Thorn, 3-Owen Franks, 2-Keven Mealamu, 1-Tony Woodcock.

Replacements - 16-Hikawera Ell


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