All Blacks pick Taylor at flyhalf vs Wallabies
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s selectors have chosen uncapped Tom Taylor over the more experienced Colin Slade as the answer to a flyhalf injury crisis in Saturday’s Rugby Championships test against Australia.
Crusaders utility Taylor will wear the All Blacks jersey for the first time as New Zealand attempts to overcome the loss through injury of flyhalves Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.
Australia has also shown faith in a novice flyhalf, retaining Matt Toomua in the No. 10 jersey after his quiet debut at Sydney last weekend. Coach Ewen McKenzie has also handed another chance to fullback Jesse Mogg, who made a much more hesitant debut in Australia’s 47-29 loss to the All Blacks last weekend.
The only change to the Wallabies lineup has been forced by the injury with Scott Fardy set to make his run-in debut to replace backrower Hugh McMeniman, who will miss the remainder of the Championships with a shoulder injury.
“It’s always important to be conscious of finding a balance between selecting experience against youth but the only way to develop that experience is by providing opportunities to players and hoping they take them,” McKenzie said. “Right now, I’m more concerned with how each individual responds to the defeat. We need to fix aspects of our performance but we will get better the more time we spend together.
“In saying that, you only get a finite number of chances at test level.”
The All Blacks coaches had been widely tipped to opt for Slade, who played the latest of his 10 tests for New Zealand during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Instead, they went for the greener of their two available flyhalves, promoting Taylor and naming Slade on the bench.
Head coach Steve Hansen said Taylor was “mentally tough and plays the game with a lot of confidence and maturity.”
“These factors, along with his assured goalkicking under pressure, have made this an easy selection,” Hansen said. “We have every faith that he will handle the occasion with aplomb.”
It’s a significant gamble by the All Blacks as the 24-year-old Taylor isn’t used as a specialist No. 10 by the Christchurch-based Crusaders. He has covered various backline roles since making his Super Rugby debut in 2012, playing seven times at inside center and three times at fullback this season.
The son of Warwick Taylor, who was an All Blacks center from 1983 to 1988, and nephew of Murray Taylor, who was also an All Blacks utility, he has in his favor a better goal-kicking record than Slade, kicking 90 percent this year.
The All Blacks were left with the selection dilemma when both Cruden and Barrett were injured in the win over Australia last week. Carter had earlier been ruled out of the first two Championships matches with a calf injury but he may be fit to return for the match against Argentina at Hamilton on Sept. 7. Cruden is out of action for between two and six weeks and Barrett is expected to be fit within a week.
In other features of the team, Brodie Retallick has been promoted from the bench to the starting XV to replace injured lock Luke Romano.
Prop Tony Woodcock will play his 100th test, becoming the fourth New Zealand test centurion after captain Richie McCaw (117), hooker Keven Mealamu (105) and retired fullback Mils Muliaina (100).
McCaw will play his 31st test against Australia on Saturday, setting a record for the most test appearances by a player against one country. His 118th test appearance will also allow him to equal France’s Fabien Pelous as the fifth most-capped player in test history after Australia’s George Gregan (139), Ireland’s Bryan O’Driscoll (133) and Ronan O’Gara (130) and England’s Justin Leonard (119).
New Zealand can retain the Bledisloe Cup - extending its 10-year hold on the trophy played for annually against Australia - if it wins Saturday’s match.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Tom Taylor, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Steven Luatua, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Jeremy Thrush, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Colin Slade, Charles Piutau.
Australia: Jesse Mogg, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Lealiifano, James O’Connor, Matt Toomua, Will Genia; Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, James Horwill (captain), Rob Simmons, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, James Slipper.
Reserves: Saia Fainga’a, Scott Sio, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Liam Gill, Nic White, Quade Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani.