No-brainer for Steve Hansen to pick Dan Carter to brings up his ton against the Poms at Twickenham

It was a no-brainer for Steve Hansen to pick Dan Carter to brings up his ton against the Poms at Twickenham, and almost as easy for him to restore Julian Savea to the left wing and give Cory Jane a weekend off.

What’s a little more unequivocal is just how well these All Blacks – showing just one change in the starting XV and another in the reserves – are equipped to deal with what could be a pretty hairy assault on the way from a confident England side.

That was the gist of Hansen’s reflections today on his lineup to face England in what’s pretty widely accepted as this November’s pivotal clash of the hemispheres – the irresistible force that is the All Blacks against the pretty staunch object that is England on Fortress Twickenham.

The All Blacks are on a stunning run of form – 12 from 12 in 2013, and a tantalising two tests away from the first ever perfect year, but also 23-1-1 since Steve Hansen took charge.

But the one — as in one defeat — was against this very England side on this very tour last year, and that makes this weekend something pretty special indeed.

More so when you factor in Stuart Lancaster’s men have won nine of their last 10 tests, six on the bounce at HQ, and are talking pretty bullishly from their Surrey retreat this week about going back to back against Black.

It’s that nervousness and respect for this week’s opposition that sees the All Blacks lineup stay as static as Hansen dared.

The 108kg Savea regains his spot on the left wing after sitting out Paris to get over a dose of the ‘flu, while the remarkable form of rookie Charles Piutau sees the 21-year-old Aucklander switch to the right and Jane drop out of the match 23 altogether.

There is also an upsizing in the reserves with fit-again Canterbury lock Luke Romano strengthening the tight forward component and young openside Sam Cane the player to drop out. That sees Steven Luatua providing the sole loose forward cover.

Hansen said it was an easy team to pick once everything had been factored in.

“Cory hasn’t played for quite some time, he played a big part last week, was busy, and got a bit of a knock which wouldn’t have stopped him playing but Julian is back and he’s fresh and been in form.”

Hansen threw the media a dummy when Andrew Hore was put up to speak on Monday, sparking a round of final farewell stories for the venerable rake, only for him to stick with the Keven Mealamu-Dane Coles one-two at hooker.

“We just think Keven is travelling along quite nicely for this one, he got the game last week and played well, and the skillset he brings will be important on Saturday,” said Hansen.

Of course the predictable inclusion of Carter at No 10 for test No 100 also adds to the already sky-high emotional quotient for the week.

Now, as well as revenge and their quest for the perfect year, the All Balcks have also got one of their dead-set legends to honour in the appropriate fashion.

“He’s a world-class player, and has probably been the greatest No 10 to play for New Zealand, and probably the world,” said Hansen by way of tribute.

“He’s been special to this group for a long time, and has gone through 18 months where he’s had some wretched luck with injuries.

“You would have thought he’d have 100 games well and truly by now, but it’s coming and hopefully he gets through the next couple of days. Being the man he is he doesn’t want to make a big fuss about it.

“We’ll celebrate it afterwards and he’ll go down as the fifth centurion, so it’s a pretty special effort.”

Carter conceded it was an emotional week for him, but he was just trying to keep it as normal as he possibly could.

“It’s a pretty exciting week, as much as I’m wanting it to be a usual test week,” said the remarkable 31-year-old who has amassed a record 1433 test points.

“At times you do think about the special occasion, but I’m just trying to put it all to the side and concentrate on what I have to do for the team and keep the usual structures in place going into a test match.

“After the game I hope I can enjoy it and embrace it a bit more. I’m really working hard on not getting caught up in all the hype.”

That singular focus extended to Carter electing to side-step the British media and speak only to the travelling New Zealand contingent about his special honour.

It’s that big a game, he says.

“England are playing good footy, and as All Blacks our motivation is to improve each week,” added Carter. “The goal this week is to keep improving. We’ve had a strong season, and this week is going to be a huge challenge at Twickenham playing an in-form England side. We’re working hard to make sure we turn up.”

Hansen also shrugged off suggestions injury defections would blunt this English challenge.

“They’re striving to turn Twickenham into a fortress and make it the place everyone fears to play at, and to do that you’ve got to have depth and be brave enough to play people and find out if they’re good enough.

“They’re a very confident team, and we’ve got to concentrate solely on making sure we get to Saturday with plenty of fuel in the tank, plenty of desire, passion and intensity to do the job well enough,” he said.

Hansen’s selection reflects the very real respect he feels for the next World Cup hosts, and probably the only team standing between his All Blacks and professional rugby’s first perfect test season.

NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Charles Piutau, Ben Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Luke Romano, Steven Luatua, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty.

– © Fairfax NZ News

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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