All Blacks: Taylor's boot gives him the edge

By Daniel Richardson

Tom Taylor's accurate goal-kicking won him the All Blacks' No 10 jersey for Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup encounter with Australia in Wellington.

This morning, Steve Hansen named his side for the All Blacks' second test in the Rugby Championship and he had to decide on whether to select Taylor or Colin Slade to start at first-five.

Hansen was short on options after Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett were all ruled out for this week's match due to injury but Taylor's dependable boot proved vital and he will make his test debut at the Cake Tin.

"We think he's got the maturity and mental ability to cope with what we are asking him to do and probably the biggest swinger was he kicks goals at about 90 per cent and I think that's important,'' Hansen said of Taylor.

When Taylor was handed the tee for the Crusaders this year he landed four of his five conversion attempts and also nailed 14 penalties from 15 attempts.

He enjoyed a bumper day out against the Rebels in April when he landed seven from eight in a Crusaders win.

The 24-year-old didn't start a game in the No 10 jersey for the Crusaders during the Super Rugby season as Carter and Tyler Bleyendaal ran the show, but found himself thrust in to a range of different roles, including second-five, centre and fullback.

Hansen wasn't bothered by the lack of time Taylor had spent at first-five this year.

"He's got the skillset to play there and he's played there quite a bit before. At the [All Blacks training] camps he's slotted in at 12 and 13 and at 10 on a couple of occasions so he understands what we are trying to do with our patterns and he's just come in seamlessly. He's got an attitude that he wants to be there and he fits in and he knows a lot of the guys really well, which makes it a bit more comfortable for him too, I think. So we've got no problem having to upskill him, he's got enough skills of his own.''

Taylor comes from good rugby breeding stock as his father, Warwick, played 24 tests for the All Blacks during the 1980s, while his uncle, Murray, also played seven tests and 23 games for New Zealand.

Taylor said his father, a school teacher, was yet to find out the good news as he was on a ski trip and was out of cellphone range but a letter was due to reach him today.

"It's been a surreal week, really,'' Taylor said. "I wouldn't have thought I would be here a week ago but it's been really great, everyone's been really supportive. [There's been] a couple of shocks during the week and obviously it's disappointing for the other 10s as well but I suppose it's my chance to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can do it.''

Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock will join an exclusive club this weekend when he becomes only the fourth man after Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Keven Mealamu to play 100 tests for the All Blacks.

"It's obviously a huge achievement, a proud moment and I'm just really excited to have the opportunity and for the body to hang in there for this long and [to have] the trust of the coaches,'' Woodcock said. ``But again, it's just a normal test match, you prepare the same and just pretty much take it day by day.''

The only other change to the All Blacks' starting XV from the side who demolished Australia 47-29 last weekend is in the second-row where Brodie Retallick was picked to replace the injured Luke Romano, with Jeremy Thrush coming in to the reserves.

On the bench, hooker Dane Coles has replaced Mealamu, while Charles Piutau has been named ahead of Ryan Crotty in the No 23 jersey to cover the outside backs. Slade will cover first-five.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Steven Luatua, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.

- APNZ

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