Friday, July 17, 2009
Stephen Donald has been chosen at flyhalf ahead of Luke McAlister for the opening Test of the Tri Nations series in Auckland this weekend.
Many expected McAlister to crack the nod, but Graeme Henry has taken the safe step of sticking with Donald for the big match.
Wallaby coach Robbie Deans says he isnt surprised with Donalds selection though.
"We fully anticipated they'd opt for Stephen Donald if he was fit, simply because of his background in that role," the coach said before today's flight to Auckland.
"It's more a reflection of the fact he's more accustomed to playing 10, whereas McAlister lacks that background."
Deans said Donald had earned the right to start the Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup opener, due to several solid seasons of Super 14, and particularly his performances for the Chiefs this year.
"We are pleased with the way that Stephen has developed since making his debut last year, he played well under difficult circumstances in the two French tests this year and we believe he is the right man for this test," said New Zealand coach Graeme Henry when the 22-man squad was announced.
Richie McCaw is also back for the All Blacks, which will give them huge confidence going into such a crucial match. Tighthead prop Neemia Tialata says there was an extra buzz in the team's first run of the week.
"It definitely makes a difference when you have your two most experienced players back and we can take some confidence from that".
Eden Park is sold out for the match, with 32,000 seats available in the under-development stadium.
New Zealand team: Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Isaac Ross, Brad Thorn, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Jason Eaton, Kieran Read, Piri Weepu, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko.
Australian team: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Lachie Turner, Stirling Mortlock (captain), Berrick Barnes, Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau, Luke Burgess, Wycliff Palu, George Smith, Richard Brown, Nathan Sharpe, James Horwill, Al Baxter, Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson
Replacements: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Ben Alexander, Dean Mumm, Phil Waugh, David Pocock, Will Genia, James O'Connor