HONG KONG, October 28 – Star flyhalf Dan Carter returned to the All Black ranks Thursday in a 22-man squad named for the Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Hong Kong on Saturday.
Carter, back after two months on the sidelines following ankle surgery, was one of four changes from the New Zealand side that beat the Wallabies 23-22 in Sydney last month.
Joe Rokocoko replaced an injured Israel Dagg on the wing while Jimmy Cowan got the nod at scrumhalf and Jerome Kaino came in at flanker at the expense of the non-touring Victor Vito.
Coach Graham Henry said: "Australia will again present a massive challenge for the All Blacks and we have picked an All Blacks starting side that has done outstandingly well this year.
"This Test is a very important one for the team who are keen to get the Tour off to a good start, and, like all trans-Tasman matches, it will be another huge encounter."
The Test is the first in the All Blacks tour to Hong Kong, Britain and Ireland.
Hooker Hikawera Elliot, whose sole All Blacks appearance to date was against Munster on the 2008 end-of-year tour, may make his Test debut from the bench.
Other reserves include loose forward Daniel Braid, who last played for the All Blacks in 2008, Alby Mathewson at reserve halfback, Stephen Donald covering the inside backs and utility Isaia Toeava, who is back in the side after hip surgery, the outside backs cover.
A number of All Blacks will reach individual milestones on Saturday.
Captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina will play their 90th Tests — and their 70th Test together — while Carter will play his 75th Test match, becoming the seventh most capped All Black of all time, while New Zealand’s most capped prop, Tony Woodcock, will play his 70th Test.
New Zealand team (with previous Test caps in brackets)
Forwards: 1. Tony Woodcock (69); 2. Keven Mealamu (80); 3. Owen Franks (17); 4. Brad Thorn (46); 5. Tom Donnelly (13); 6. Jerome Kaino (33); 7. Richie McCaw – captain (89); 8. Kieran Read (25)
Backs: 9. Jimmy Cowan (41); 10. Daniel Carter (74); 11. Josevata Rokocoko (66); 12. Ma’a Nonu (52); 13. Conrad Smith (41); 14. Cory Jane (21); 15. Mils Muliaina (89)
Reserves: 16. Hikawera Elliot (uncapped); 17. John Afoa (25); 18. Samuel Whitelock (8); 19. Daniel Braid (4); 20. Alby Mathewson (1); 21. Stephen Donald (19); 22. Isaia Toeava (26)