Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks make three changes for England test

The All Blacks have made three changes to their starting team as they focus on making the last big push for the season against a hugely physical England team that will come at them down route one.

Daniel Carter returns to his beloved No 10 jersey in place of Aaron Cruden, Keven Mealamu starts ahead of the suspended Andrew Hore and Brodie Retallick's big engine is preferred to the ball-carrying grunt of Luke Romano.

Mealamu, Carter and prop Tony Woodcock all need to get through training on Thursday afternoon UK time to confirm their places but All Black coach Steve Hansen was confident that would be the case.

"They got through training the other day and we are comfortable to name them at this stage," said Hansen. "There has been a consistency for most of the season hasn't there? We have looked to build the combinations and we have continued to do that. If the guys are fit and available then we have tried to pick them.

"He has a couple of games off the bench and he has got a big motor and goes all day long and we just think that this game will suit him. It gives Luke an opportunity to have a wee breather. Both of them are rookies this year and have had a big year so this was an opportunity to make some subtle change."

The All Blacks will need all the manpower they can muster as England represent one of the great physical challenges in the game. The English pack dominated the South Africans last week - a pack the All Blacks struggled against for much of the Dunedin Rugby Championship test.

The men in white will be brutal, relentless and fiercely determined as while they won the collisions, they didn't win the game, suffering their second consecutive loss to Southern Hemisphere opposition.

Those two disappointing performances and defeats saw England come under siege from their media. England are hosting the next World Cup and have the stated aim of winning it - believing the build-up starts now and that it is imperative to learn the art of beating the Southern Hemisphere sides.. Under pressure and with their backs against the wall, England will most certainly come out snorting fire in the first half at Twickenham.

"They are big men and they are probably one of the biggest packs that we will come up against," says Hansen.

"They will bring a physical, combative game - there is no question about where they are going to come. They will have one-off runners and two runners round the corner so they are going to come straight at you. Outside of the set-piece - we are going to have make sure that we dominate that area and then we are going to have to be comfortable dominating tackles and then out own ball carrying is going to have to be good. If you win those collisions then you win the match."

All Black team to play England, London, 3.30am Sunday December 2
Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

- Herald on Sunday

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