A new midfield combination, the return of a slimmed down
Piri Weepu and the introduction of Adam Thomson are the major
points of interest in the All Black side selected to play
Scotland on Monday morning (NZT).
There are also places on the bench for new caps Dane Coles
and Tawera Kerr-Barlow and a recall for Wyatt Crockett.
As promised, All Black coach Steve Hansen has made wholesale
changes from the last encounter in Brisbane. The coach wants
everyone in his 32-man squad to play some part in the first
two tests of this tour but there was never any intention to
split into an A and B team.
Despite making nine personnel changes from the 18-18 draw in
Brisbane, the All Black side to face Scotland still carries
close to 800 test caps, with most units boasting at least one
highly experienced operator.
The exception is the midfield where Tamati Ellison at second
five-eighths has been paired with Ben Smith at centre. The
Highlanders duo were originally selected back in June as
utility backs but, as the season has progressed, the thinking
While both continue to impress with their versatility, the
coaching panel see them as a potential back-up midfield
combination to the incumbent pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad
"We wanted to form a combination and we think there is a bit
of combination there anyway from the Highlanders," said
Hansen on why the decision was made to pair Smith and Ellison
rather than split Nonu and Smith.
"The combination of Conrad and Ma'a is going well and we need
to keep working on that as well. Looking to the future, we
think the Ma'a/Conrad combination is probably going to play
later in the series and this [Smith and Ellison] is a
combination that is going to spend a lot of time together I
should think at the Highlanders and maybe future All Black
Weepu, having responded to management requests to drop more
weight and up his fitness, earns his second start of 2012.
"We gave him some pretty strong, clear guidelines before we
picked the team and he has met those, hence why we are seeing
a sharper, fitter Piri," said Hansen.
The other message given to Weepu is that the All Blacks want
to continue with the high-octane game they have been playing
with Aaron Smith at halfback.
The introduction of the new rule giving teams a maximum of
only five seconds to clear the ball from the base of rucks is
causing little concern. The All Blacks fancy they are a
two-second team anyway and the pressure will be on Weepu to
make sure they are.
The pressure is also on Thomson to deliver a performance that
keeps him in the frame to earn a starting spot later in the
tour with Victor Vito, shifted to No 8 charged with the same
"It's a big game for [Vito] and Adam Thomson as both of them
have been given an opportunity to come out and really stamp
themselves in this contest," Hansen said.
All Black team to play Scotland at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, on
Monday (3.30am NZT): Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith,
Tamati Ellison, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu,
Victor Vito, Richie McCaw (captain), Adam Thomson, Sam
Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt
Crockett. Reserves: Dane Coles, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks,
Ali Williams, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett,
- By Gregor Paul of the Herald on Sunday in Edinburgh