All Blacks superstar fly-half Dan Carter will start at centre for their Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Hong Kong Saturday, as coach Graham Henry looks to rebuild his depleted squad.
Carter, who will move to French club Perpignan after New Zealand’s tour of Hong Kong and Europe, will start at number 12 with Stephen Donald playing in the number 10 jersey, Henry said Tuesday.
“We thought it was important to try and get two navigators on the field, because of their lack of rugby over the last five or six weeks,” Henry told reporters in Hong Kong.
“Two playmakers, two navigators, we thought early in the game that would be helpful.
“(The move) also gives some flexibility with a right footer and a left footer to change various things during the game if you want to do so,” Henry added.
Australia coach Robbie Deans said he was “not surprised” by the move, adding that it would not affect his own team selection.
“I had a wee suspicion they were looking at that area. That worked well for them late in the Test in Brisbane,” Deans said.
“I’m not surprised. I had an inkling they were considering that line-up.” The All Blacks begin a gruelling tour on Saturday, before matches against Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England on consecutive Saturdays and a midweek match against European champions Munster.
Henry said the tour was about new players making the step up to Test level after a string of high-profile retirements, defections and injuries since the World Cup in 2007.
“This tour is about building some depth in the team,” Henry said.
Winger Hosea Gear, the younger brother of former All Black Rico, will make his debut on Saturday after impressing Henry with a string of strong performances.
“He has been on fine form. He has scored lots of tries and he is explosive. He is in great shape at the moment,” Henry said.
Prop Greg Somerville has been called on to the bench as John Afoa is still recovering from a knee injury.
Australia will announce their team on Thursday.
New Zealand are assured of retaining the Bledisloe Cup after taking an unbeatable 2-1 lead in the series.
The All Blacks team named Tuesday to play Australia in their Bledisloe Cup rugby Test in Hong Kong on Saturday:
Mils Muliaina, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Stephen Donald, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So’oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Brad Thorn, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Greg Somerville, Anthony Boric, Adam Thompson, Piri Weepu, Ma’a Nonu, Isaia Toeava.