WELLINGTON, July 15 – The All Blacks have made two changes to the team that swatted aside world champions South Africa in the first Tri-Nations rugby Test as they prepare for Saturday's rematch in Wellington.Winger Rene Ranger will get his first start after Joe Rokocoko failed to overcome a hamstring strain while halfback Jimmy Cowan has been dropped to the bench and replaced by Piri Weepu.
The forward pack is unchanged while Israel Dagg comes into the reserves for Richard Kahui who injured his shoulder when he came on in the second half of the first Test won by the All Blacks 32-12 in Auckland last weekend.
Ranger’s only previous outing for the All Blacks was a late appearance off the bench in the second Test against Wales last month when he wasted a try-scoring opportunity by ignoring an overlap outside him.
Assistant coach Wayne Smith admitted Ranger’s ability at the top level was still in question but his raw talents meant he was worth the risk.
"Rene’s like any new player. Coming up to this level is quite a big ask because you have to learn the tactical approach that we’re taking and the moves that we’re going to use," he said.
"Then you’ve got to come up to the level mentally. But you’ve to be careful that you don’t clutter these guys and you let them go out and do what they’re good at."
Ranger starred for the Auckland Blues in the Super 14 campaign with his mix of pace and power, but Smith said that did not mean he would achieve the same results at international level.
"There are other players who look a million dollars (at Super 14 level) and can’t quite cut it in the Test arena," Smith said.
"You never know until they’re in the heat of the battle, how they’re going to react."
New Zealand (15-1)
Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Tom Donnelly, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Corey Flynn, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Jimmy Cowan, Aaron Cruden, Israel Dagg.