Crockett joins All Blacks lineup to face Australia
Wyatt Crockett has been named to replace injured loosehead prop Tony Woodcock in the only change to New Zealand’s lineup for Saturday’s Rugby Championship test against Australia at Eden Park.
The 87-test veteran Woodcock suffered a rib cartilage injury as New Zealand beat Australia 27-19 in last weekend’s opening test of the four-nation Championship, which was also the first of three Bledisloe Cup tests between the All Blacks and Wallabies.
Coach Steve Hansen on Thursday named Canterbury Crusaders prop Crockett to make his seventh test appearance in Woodcock’s absence, joining hooker Keven Mealamu, who will play his 95th test, and tighthead Owen Franks in a strong front row.
The All Blacks picked up no other injuries in the first test at Sydney and are strongly favored to extend their 26-year winning streak against the Wallabies at Eden Park.
Hansen said he was happy with his team’s performance in the first match in the southern hemisphere tournament involving Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa, but he expected improvement on Saturday.
“We are expecting that Australia will take a step up in their intensity after last weekend’s loss and we will have to be ready for that challenge,” he said.
“Playing in front of our home crowd is always exciting for the All Blacks. The fans are important to us and getting the opportunity to play a home test is one we cherish.” While New Zealand won last weekend’s test by only nine points, it held a significant edge in play over Australia in all aspects of the match. Only some rustiness in its first test since June prevented it winning by considerably more against a Wallabies team that lacked energy and direction.
Australia has already been hard-hit this week by the loss of its captain David Pocock with a knee injury. Pocock has undergone surgery and will be sidelined for three months.
Scrumhalf Will Genia will lead the Wallabies on Saturday as their third captain this season after injuries to Pocock and his predecessor James Horwill.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans named Quade Cooper at flyhalf in his lineup for Saturday’s match, hoping to inject some flair into the team’s play after its poor display.
Saturday’s test is likely to be the last in New Zealand colors for center Sonny Bill Williams who will join Japanese club Panasonic Wild Knights on a one-season contract later this month.
Williams will then return to Australia’s National Rugby League for the 2013 season.
The star center, who is also New Zealand’s professional heavyweight boxing champion, has played 18 tests for the All Blacks since 2010, two years after he quit rugby league for rugby union.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Hosea Gear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Keiran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Wyatt Crockett.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.