CHRISTCHURCH, August 3 – The All Blacks have made just one change to their starting line up as they look to wrap up the Tri-Nations championship with two games to spare when they play Australia here on Saturday.
Piri Weepu will be the run-on halfback after Jimmy Cowan was ruled out with a rib injury suffered during the 49-28 hiding of Australia in Melbourne last weekend.
The only other changes are on the reserves bench where uncapped halfback Alby Mathewson comes into the squad and midfielder Benson Stanley replaces Israel Dagg.
The All Blacks have a maximum 15 points from their three matches so far and another bonus point win would put them in an unassailable position to win their 10th crown in the 15-year history of the southern hemisphere tournament.
Despite their stranglehold on the competition, coach Graham Henry dismissed any suggestion his side could ease up.
"The win on the weekend in Melbourne was very pleasing and the exciting thing is that there is a real desire amongst the players to build on that performance," Henry said when announcing his team Tuesday.
After starting this year’s series with 32-12 and 31-17 thrashings of defending champions South Africa the All Blacks have scored 15 tries in three outings, relishing new law interpretations which encourage running rugby.
A year ago, when kicking for territory was in vogue, the All Blacks only scored eight tries in total from their six Tri-Nations matches.
They have also been unbeaten in 12 Tests since losing to the Springboks in Hamilton last year and they have notched up eight consecutive wins over Australia.
"If I had eight losses in a row, I would find that very difficult to handle," Henry said in a dig at Australian coach Robbie Deans
Two All Blacks will achieve milestones on Saturday with Tony Woodcock playing his 67th Test to become the most capped prop in All Blacks history while inside centre Ma’a Nonu plays his 50th Test Test.
New Zealand (15-1)
Mils Muliaina, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Jo Rokocoko, 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, Victor Vito, Alby Mathewson, Aaron Cruden, Benson Stanley