Carter returns in All Blacks team to play Scotland
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Flyhalf Dan Carter will start a test for the first time in a year when the All Blacks play Scotland at Edinburgh on Saturday.
Carter was included Thursday in a New Zealand squad containing 12 changes to the 23 that edged England last weekend.
Captain Richie McCaw will play as a blindside flanker for the first time in his test career, allowing Sam Cane a rare chance on the openside flank.
James Parsons will make an unexpected test debut after being called into the touring squad as a replacement for injured Nathan Harris.
Carter last started a test against England last November. He took the following seven months off and his planned return was set back when he broke his leg in the Super Rugby final.
Carter came off the bench for the All Blacks against the United States but took no part in last weekend’s test at Twickenham. Saturday’s match is likely to test whether he can pass Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett to reclaim his place as New Zealand’s No. 1 flyhalf before next year’s World Cup.
Carter is the world’s leading test scorer with 1,446 points but the match against Scotland will test whether he still has the sharpness to lead the All Blacks in major matches.
Dominic Bird, who was also called into the touring squad as injury cover, will play his second test at lock because of injuries to Brodie Retallick and Patrick Tuipulotu.
T.J. Perenara will start at scrumhalf, combining with Carter, while Malakai Fekitoa and Ryan Crotty return in midfield where New Zealand’s depth is strongest and competition for starting places is most fierce.
Ben Smith moves to fullback, fueling his rivalry with Israel Dagg for that starting role, while flyhalf Colin Slade adds to his versatility by being named on the wing.
All Blacks coach Steve Hanson said the experimental nature of the All Blacks’ lineup did not suggest they were taking Scotland lightly.
“There is an expectation that those who fill the jersey will deliver quality performances,” Hanson said. “We have a lot of respect for the Scots and ... know that they will bring a lot of physicality. We also expect them to want to move the ball. That style certainly suited them last week and makes them, we believe, even more dangerous.”
New Zealand: Ben Smith, Colin Slade, Malakai Fekitoa, Ryan Crotty, Charles Piutau, Dan Carter, T.J. Perenara; Victor Vito, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (captain), Dominic Bird, Jeremy Thrush, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons, Joe Moody.
Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Luke Romano, Liam Messam, Augustine Pulu, Sonny Bill Williams, Julian Savea.