The All Blacks have named a predictable lineup to take on Australia with Israel Dagg, Richard Kahui and Aaron Cruden all starting in a game coach Graham Henry describes as the biggest of their careers.

Crucially, captain Richie McCaw will start in the No 7 jersey. He has barely trained in the past couple of weeks because of his troubling foot injury but he will play.

Fellow loose forward Adam Thomson was the only injury casualty. The Otago flanker failed in his bid to overcome the ankle injury he picked up against France nearly three weeks ago and Victor Vito will take his place on the bench.

Alongside Vito in the reserves is Sonny Bill Williams, with the selectors preferring Kahui on the left wing and Williams' impact off the bench and ability to cover a number of positions.


Andy Ellis won the battle for the backup halfback ahead of Jimmy Cowan and Stephen Donald will provide first five-eighths cover for Cruden.

"It was pretty straight-forward,'' Henry said of selecting the team. "We have played eight to 10 test matches in the last 12 weeks so we should know what we are doing by now.''

The pack is a very settled one, with all eight having played a lot of rugby together despite the injuries to McCaw and Kieran Read, but the backline has seen a lot of changes in recent times.

It's not the one Henry might have had in mind if he was thinking about a World Cup semifinal earlier in the year, but the injuries to Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina and form of Piri Weepu, Cory Jane, Dagg and Kahui have changed the scene.

Weepu has become critical, especially with the inexperienced Cruden beside him in the No 10 jersey. Weepu is seen as the backline general and has taken on added responsibility in the absence of Carter.

"He's always been a quality player and loves the big occasion,'' Henry said. "If you watch him play, he seems to have more time than most and that shows quality. Now Daniel isn't playing there's more responsibility to navigate the ship and he's doing that.''

Weepu has, however, had a difficult week with the death of his grandfather, but Henry had no doubts he would be in the right frame to play Australia.

"He's very tight with his family. His whanau is very important to him. His grandfather moving on was a major but he will play for him.''


Australia have tried to ramp up the pressure on the All Blacks this week, questioning their ability to handle the nation's expectations, but Henry was in a relaxed mood this morning.

He cracked jokes in his dry way, even saying it wouldn't matter if Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was the opposition coach when asked about his rivalry with Robbie Deans, but he was well aware of the enormity of the occasion.

"It's a big game of rugby and we have to do things right in the lead-up to the game to do the job right on Sunday,'' he said. "The team was very happy with the way they played in the quarter-final win over Argentina. It was a really intense battle and that's what we needed heading into this weekend's match.

"It's probably the biggest game these guys have played in 10 years. There is a quiet focus there, a quiet determination. This is a semifinal of a World Cup and we just have to do the business.''

Starting XV:
1. Tony Woodcock (81)
2. Keven Mealamu (90)
3. Owen Franks (29)
4. Samuel Whitelock (23)
5. Brad Thorn (57)
6. Jerome Kaino (46)
7. Richie McCaw - captain (101)
8. Kieran Read (34)
9. Piri Weepu (54)
10. Aaron Cruden (7)
11. Richard Kahui (15)
12. Ma'a Nonu (64)
13. Conrad Smith (53)
14. Cory Jane (29)
15. Israel Dagg (10)



16. Andrew Hore (60)
17. Ben Franks (14)
18. Ali Williams (71)
19. Victor Vito (12)
20. Andy Ellis (24)
21. Stephen Donald (22)
22. Sonny Bill Williams (12)