All Blacks: Hansen picks top team for dangerous Wallabies

By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday

A bit like election campaigns, momentum is everything in test rugby which is why the All Blacks have resisted the temptation to make significant changes for the final Bledisloe Cup clash.

The big push into Europe is just three weeks away and coach Steve Hansen wants his side to hit the ground running over there - to arrive full of belief and confidence. He also wants his side to be extending their run of consecutive victories which has also played heavily in the thinking of the selections for Brisbane.

The Wallabies are damaged, ravaged and all but broken but even still, they present a serious danger if not properly attended to. Saturday's test is one that will require focus, accuracy and ruthlessness and therefore the best troops available.

The only changes in the starting XV from the one that played in Soweto are in the front-row where Charlie Faumuina starts ahead of Owen Franks and as expected Keven Mealamu will win his 100th cap in the No 2 rather than No 16 jersey.

Ben Smith and Victor Vito come on to the bench in place of Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson respectively.

"It is definitely not a dead rubber," said Hansen in explaining how he sees the contest. "It's a test match against Australia and along with South Africa they are probably the team that ranks as our highest rival.

"There is a heck of a lot on it. We have managed to beat them twice this year but the last time we played them at Suncorp they beat us. They have a record of 17 out of 20 there so that makes them a dangerous animal.

"They have been doing a lot of talking about what they are going to do and what they are not going to do which I find interesting. Right at the beginning of starting our life as a team we said we would look at each game with two challenges: the opposition and ourselves.

"We respect them immensely and we know they have had hardships, a few injuries. But they have got one or two back and we know they will be physical and we know they will front for long periods and we have got to be able to manage that."

The tests against Scotland and Italy present a better opportunity for the All Blacks to be more development focused in their selection which was another reason why the changes for Brisbane were kept to a minimum.

Faumuina had shown himself to be ready for a start after impressive cameos and Franks would benefit from a stint on the bench where his impact might be more keenly felt deeper in the game.

"We have got the team clicking along quite nicely," said Hansen. "Clearly, we were always going to make the change at hooker and we wanted to give Charlie a start. We have got some test matches coming up where we will look to give most people a game, particularly the first two as there is only a six-day turnaround [from playing Scotland to playing Italy], so we will have to look to make some changes."

All Blacks team to play Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday, kick-off 11pm (NZT), is: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

- Herald on Sunday

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