It took me all day to find out the AB team, as I was out and about and always just missing the sports news. So here it is, alongside the differences from [my team] selected a couple of weeks back:
1. Tony Woodcock
2. Andrew Hore
3. Neemia Tialata
4. Brad Thorn
5. Isaac Ross
6. Kieran Read [Liam Messum]
7. Adam Thompson [Richie McCaw] - comes off the bench to cover McCaw's injury
8. Liam Messam - I had Liam at 6 with Kaino at 8 - with Kaino injured the excellent Read comes in at 6 and Messum shifts to 8
9. Jimmy Cowan [Piri Weepu] - my 2 halfbacks swap places
10. Stephen Donald
11. Joe Rokocoko
12. Ma’a Nonu
13. Isaia Toeava [Richard Kahui] with Kahui injured the versatile Toeva gets a chance at centre - he has international experience in this position and won't let us down - if he plays well, can he make this position his own when Smith is fit?
14. Rudi Wulf [Isaia Toeva]- comes in to cover Toeva's shift to centre but I have to say he wasn't on my bench - he does have a better kick defence than Masaga
15. Mils Muliaina (c)
16. John Afoa
17. Keven Mealamu
18. Bryn Evans [Kevin O’Neill] - the most surprised rugby player in NZ
19. Tanerau Latimer [Adam Thompson] comes onto the bench to cover Thompson moving to the starting lineup
20. Piri Weepu [Jimmy Cowan] I guess they see Piri as the impacy guy
21. Luke McAllister
22. Corey Jane [Lelia Masaga] clearly they rate Wulf ahead of Masaga, but Wulf wouldn't have made my bench as he is not an impact player - Corey Jane won't let anyone down.
Not a bad lineup really. A good blend of experience and newbies - of course any team without McCaw, Carter and Williams is not going to be there. But when you look at it - we have 4 out of our first string tight 5 with a rookie of some potential locking the scrum with his Super 14 partner. Our loosies are good players and frankly I think its a good blend of flair, solidity and bloody mindedness! Donald has stepped up this Super 14 and is head and shoulders above the other 1st V's in NZ. The rest of the backline is either first choice or experienced contenders.
For me, the points of interest are:
- How will Thompson go? I rate him (being a former loosie myself)
- Could Nonu and Toeva be the surprise package? With Nonu's strength and step with Toeva's speed and swerve - if they can get it right on defence it could be interesting
- How will McAllister go and will he replace Nonu or Donald?