Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: All Blacks front row ready to front up

France are not hugely experienced but will fancy their front row clash against the All Blacks.

Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett and hooker Dane Coles have been occasional test choices but front up at Eden Park tomorrow as injury and development ideas open All Black selection gaps.

Coles was the future and this was his chance, coach Steve Hansen said.

"He's not going to develop by sitting on the bench. The door is open but he's got to walk through it."

Coles' rugby was restricted when he broke his eye socket in April. He attended both All Black camps and returned to Super 15 work last round against the Brumbies.

Crockett's scrum technique came in for its latest reproach from former All Black coach Graham Henry but Hansen dismissed that as the grizzles from a beaten Blues side.

He felt France would try to bully the All Blacks up front and then change direction with their backs, as they tried in the Six Nations.

He also revealed that Daniel Carter would miss the second test in Christchurch to allow the fracture in his right hand to heal properly.

France have hooker Dimitri Szarzewski and loosehead prop Thomas Domingo with enough experience to encourage them to have a crack in the scrums.

That set-piece and all other aspects will come under Wayne Barnes' jurisdiction. Barnes has refereed the All Blacks three times since his controversial control of their 18-20 World Cup quarter-final defeat to France in 2007. The only time he has refereed the All Blacks since, in New Zealand, he sent off Irish No 8 Jamie Heaslip.

Barnes was in the spotlight again last month when he red-carded hooker Dylan Hartley in the premiership final at Twickenham.

The referee claimed Hartley called him a "f***ing cheat" and a judicial hearing found the hooker guilty of a mid-range offence and banned him for 11 weeks, ruling him out of the Lions tour.

Senior All Black loosehead prop Tony Woodcock is out of this test because he had an infected nose and the coaches did not want to play and "flatten" him for the rest of the series.

That decision means the versatile Ben Franks and rookie Ben Afeaki are props on an expanded eight-man bench, with Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush also looking for his first cap as a 28-year-old.

All of the starting backs except Aaron Cruden and Ben Smith have suffered this season - Israel Dagg has been out of form, Julian Savea has appeared in court, Conrad Smith was concussed, Ma'a Nonu hurt a knee and with Aaron Smith was in fluctuating form for the Highlanders.

- NZ Herald

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