Dan Carter left out of All Blacks team to face England as Aaron Cruden starts
No place for the New Zealand centurion at Twickenham, but code-swapping Sonny Bill Williams keeps his place at inside centre
Crusaders outside-half Dan Carter has been left out of an experienced New Zealand 23 to face England at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 32-year-old All Blacks centurion, who came off the bench for the final 30 minutes in their 74-6 win over the USA in Chicago on Saturday, has not been considered for selection by head coach Steve Hansen as the veteran continues his comeback from a broken leg picked up in Super Rugby final at the beginning of August.
In his place is Chiefs playmaker Aaron Cruden, who wins an ongoing battle with Hurricanes outside-half Beauden Barrett to make the starting XV, having impressed with a 50-minute outing last week.
Barrett started against Argentina and South Africa in the final two rounds of the Rugby Championship after Cruden missed the team flight to Argentina, and the 23-year-old also started against Australia in Bledisloe 3 last month as Cruden was left out of the squad, but the Hurricanes star has to settle for a support role as the All Blacks look win a fifth successive match against England.
“It has worked well for us the whole time we have done it,” Hansen said. “At some point Beaudy will be injected into the game and it may not even be at 10.”
Code-hopping centre Sonny Bill Williams is a surprise inclusion alongside Conrad Smith in the midfield as he continues his swift return to rugby union after leaving rugby league in Australia, where he had spent two years playing alongside Bath Rugby acquisition Sam Burgess at the NRL title-winning Sydney Roosters.
The 29-year-old made an impressive return to the 15-man game last week as he scored two tries against the USA, and has been rewarded for his performance with a chance to take on tougher opposition at the first attempt as he again lines up outside Chiefs team-mate Cruden.
The 2011 Rugby World Cup winner’s ability to look comfortable after switching codes in a matter of weeks means Highlanders rising star Malakai Fekitoa is left out of the match-day squad against England, but could return in the final of the tour against Wales on 22 November.
“We think Sonny brings something pretty unique,” Hansen added. “We’ve seen him against lesser opposition, so we need to see him against quality opposition.“
“If he can do what he did the week before, it’d be good. His love is rugby. He really loves the game and he feels he has more freedom playing it.
“He’s got the chance to express himself across the park.”
Israel Dagg keeps his place at full-back and is joined in the back three by Highlanders wing Ben Smith, who returns as Cory Jane picked up an injury last week and has already headed back to New Zealand.
Smith is joined on the flanks by England nemesis Julian Savea, who has scored four tries in eight appearances against the Red Rose including a first-half hat-trick in a 36-13 win in June as the All Blacks ruthlessly handed out a series whitewash.
Hansen has been able to restore his preferred back row with Jerome Kaino fit again after missing the last two matches with foot bruising, and the Blues flanker takes his place on the blindside alongside captain Richie McCaw on the openside, and Kieran Read at number 8, with Liam Messam providing cover from the bench.
The All Blacks head coach has also switched out the tight five from last week’s cruise against the Eagles with props Wyatt Crockett and Owen Franks packing down alongside hooker Dane Coles, and Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock returning to the engine room.
“This Test match is a great opportunity to once again experience the atmosphere of Twickenham, and to lay down a marker of where we are currently at in relation to our opponents, England,” Hansen said.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg (Crusaders); Ben Smith (Highlanders), Conrad Smith (Hurricanes), Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs), Julian Savea (Hurricanes); Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), Aaron Smith (Highlanders); Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Owen Franks (Crusaders), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Jerome Kaino (Blues), Richie McCaw (Crusaders, captain), Kieran Read (Crusaders).
Replacements: Keven Mealamu (Blues), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues), Liam Messam (Chiefs); TJ Perenara (Hurricanes), Beauden Barrett (Hurricanes), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders)