Jonah Lomu’s role as an impact replacement has come to an end and the big Wellington Hurricane will be in the starting line-up in Eden Park as John Mitchell sets about restoring some All Black pride.
The giant wing who came on as a replacement against the Irish in the Dunedin Test will play on the right wing on Saturday in place of Doug Howlett who slips to the bench despite scoring the opening try against Ireland.
Lomu, one of two changes from the side that won narrowly in Dunedin, has played almost exclusively on the left wing in his 57 tests to date, but this season John Mitchell has used him only on the right wing. Caleb Ralph will again wear the 11 jersey.
The other change sees Mark Robinson return at centre in place of Tana Umaga, who is expected to play on Friday for the Barbarians against the Maori. Robinson’s inclusion means there will be 14 Crusaders in the starting line-up at Auckland, one more than the 13 who took the field at Carisbrook.
Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan said he wasn’t surprised with Lomu’s selection. No, not at all. I’d guessed they’d play him. It makes sense. I think they will try and get the ball into his hands early and often. Use him to get good gain lines. He’s big and strong and tough to defend against and if he gets free on the outside he’s very hard to stop.
Mitchell insists that the provincial affiliation of the players was irrelevant.
“As I said after the game last Saturday we’d picked the best players for that game and the same applies for the job we have to do on Saturday. They are New Zealand’s All Blacks and very proud to be representing their country. And that’s all that matters,” he said.
Robinson, wins his fourth test cap. The talented midfielder made his test debut for New Zealand against Scotland at Eden Park two years ago and marked the occasion by scoring a try. He looked impressive when he played for the All Blacks’ against Italy at Hamilton before being forced from the field late in the game after sustaining a knock.
Mitchell re-iterated the need for more accuracy from his side as it attempts to complete a 2-0 series victory.
“We set the highest standards for ourselves and while we were pleased to take the win last weekend there were aspects of the performance that we need to work on. However sometimes, when things are not going your way, you have to grind games out, and to their credit, the players were able to do that at Carisbrook. But we set standards and measure ourselves on the quality of our performance. We fell well short of our own expectations in that area last time.
All Blacks: Leon MacDonald; Jonah Lomu, Mark Robinson, Aaron Mauger, Caleb Ralph; Andrew Mehrtens, Justin Marshall; Dave Hewett, Mark Hammett, Greg Somerville; Chris Jack, Norm Maxwell; Reuben Thorne (captain), Richard McCaw, Scott Robertson.
Reserves: Tom Willis, Joe McDonnell, Simon Maling, Marty Holah, Byron Kelleher, Daryl Gibson, Doug Howlett.