Read, Muliaina return for New Zealand at World Cup
Updated: September 29, 2011, 17:32
Send to a friend
WELLINGTON, New Zealand(AP) Backrower Keiran Read will make a comeback from injury and fullback Mils Muliaina has been selected to start his 99th test in the All Blacks team to play Canada at the Rugby World Cup on Sunday.
Read missed New Zealand's first three matches in Pool A with an ankle injury sustained in the late stages of this season's Tri-Nations tournament. Though he slightly aggravated the injury in training on Wednesday, he has been passed fit to play his 34th test for New Zealand and his first at a Rugby World Cup.
Muliaina appears to have been displaced by Israel Dagg as New Zealand's first-choice fullback but he has been given the chance against Canada to close in on his 100th test appearance, a milestone achieved by skipper Richie McCaw against France last weekend.
The veteran fullback will leave New Zealand to play in Japan after the World Cup and will now have to take the field in one of the All Blacks' knockout matches to become only the second player to earn 100 test caps for New Zealand.
The team announced by the All Blacks on Friday also features the selection of Zac Guildford on the left wing for what will be his first World Cup appearance. Guildford has not been included in New Zealand's squad for any of its previous pool matches and appeared at a news conference earlier this month to apologize for breaches of team alcohol policy.
The selection of Guildford, Muliaina and Read means that all 30 members of New Zealand's squad will now have played at the World Cup. Ma'a Nonu's omission, among seven changes to the All Blacks lineup from its win over France, leaves flanker Jerome Kaino as the only New Zealand player in with a chance of playing in all of its Cup matches.
Dagg moves from fullback to the right wing after overcoming a minor injury and in the absence of Richard Kahui, who has a hamstring strain, and Cory Jane, who has a head knock.
"Israel has been playing very well and he got player of the day last week and played exceptionally well, which is very pleasing,'' said Graham Henry who will coach the All Blacks in his 100th test match on Sunday.
"But Mils has played 98 games for the All Blacks and has been an outstanding All Black for a long time.''
Sonny Bill Williams will start at inside center, breaking up the midfield partnership between Conrad Smith and Nonu, who has been left out of the match 22.
Dan Carter will play his 85th test at flyhalf, pairing with Jimmy Cowan who returns at scrumhalf to play his 50th test.
In the forwards, Andrew Hore at hooker and Ali Williams at lock have been promoted to the starting XV.
New Zealand has already qualified for the quarterfinals but Henry said the match against Canada was a chance to carry momentum into the tournament's knockout rounds.
"We are looking to improve each week during the Rugby World Cup, with an increase in intensity and execution, and we will be looking to do that again this week,'' Henry said.
"Having said that, the Canadians have shown in this Rugby World Cup just what they are capable of, including a good win over Tonga and the hardfought draw against Japan, so we are expecting a passionate contest.''
While there are seven changes, Henry said the object of the All Blacks coaches was to balance selection stability with the need to give all players gametime.
"We just want to make sure that the backbone of the team is ticking over all the time and the guys that need football get an opportunity, because you just don't know what's going to happen on the injury front going forward and who is going to be required for finals football,'' he said. "It's about form and we've picked this side on form through this competition.''
Henry said he was proud to have reached 100 tests as New Zealand coach.
"It's a privilege really to be involved in the most successful sporting team in the history of sport. It's special and I'm proud to be a part of that,'' he said.
"And to do that 100 times is also special, but probably a sign of madness as well. I think it's a reflection on what the management team and the leaders in the team have done over those eight years to keep me in a job.''
New Zealand has played Canada four times, including twice at a Rugby World Cup, winning all four contests.
New Zealand: Mils Muliaina, Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith, Sonny Bill Williams, Zac Guildford, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Keiran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Jerome Kaino, Ali Williams, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Brad Thorn, Anthony Boric, Piri Weepu, Colin Slade, Isaia Toeava.