Dan Carter recalled as All Blacks make 13 changes for Scotland
Richie McCaw and Ben Smith are the only survivors from last week's win at Twickenham, but both switch positions
Dan Carter will make his first international start in 12 months as New Zealand make 13 changes for Saturday’s clash with Scotland at BT Murrayfield Stadium.
The 29-year-old, who won his 101st cap with a 30-minute cameo appearance against the USA on 1 November, has not started for the All Blacks since going off injured after 25 minutes against England last November.
Since then, Carter enjoyed a jet-set country-hopping sabbatical before making his comeback and breaking his leg in the Super Rugby final in August ruling him out of the Rugby Championship.
The Crusaders outside-half will have fond memories of his last visit to Edinburgh in 2012 when he had a hand in three of the All Blacks’ six tries and kicked 21 points.
Captain Richie McCaw, who will start on the blindside for the first time, and Ben Smith, are the only players to keep their place in the starting XV from last week’s 24-21 win over England at Twickenham as head coach Steve Hansen makes full use of his touring squad ahead of next week’s clash with Wales in Cardiff.
“Though we have made changes to our team, there is an expectation that those who fill the jersey will deliver quality performances,” Hansen said.
“We have had a good week’s preparation so far, there is a spring in the step of the team and real excitement looking forward to the Scottish Test.”
Blues hooker James Parsons, who has been in the UK with the Barbarians, has had to cancel his third wedding anniversary plans in Paris after being drafted into the squad, and he has been rewarded for his sacrifice with a debut start in Edinburgh between props Joe Moody and Charlie Faumuina.
Dominic Bird will win his second start in the engine room alongside Jeremy Thrush, with Sam Cane coming in on the blindside, McCaw switching to the openside, and Victor Vito deputising for Kieran Read at number 8 as Hansen experiments ahead of of next year’s Rugby World Cup.
“If you are thinking are we turning Richie into a six? Then no,” he said.
“It’s nice to see if they can work together with Richie as a six from time to time, because that might be what we have to roll with if Sam is the reserve loose forward.
“This is a chance to start, and have some planning and training time to grow and see how the combination goes, but we’ve got no long-term thoughts of moving Rick to six.
“We want to start like that because we think Scotland will try and play an open game and we want to put as much pressure on at the breakdown as we can.
“Those two guys are both good at getting over the ball.”
TJ Perenara partners Carter in the half-backs with Ryan Crotty and Malakai Fekitoa in midfield.
Usually a 10 or 15, Colin Slade, who kicked the winning conversion for the All Blacks to seal a win over Australia in Bledisloe 3 last month and was part of the Barbarians squad earlier this month, starts on the right wing as Smith switches to full-back, while Charles Piuta lines up on the left wing.
Fearsome backs Sonny Bill Williams and Julian Savea are both on a strong replacements bench.
The All Blacks have never lost to Scotland in 29 Test matches, with just two draws, and the expectation is of an easy win for the world champions despite Scotland’s impressive 41-31 win over Argentina.
When the countries last met two years ago, the All Blacks left Murrayfield with a comfortable 51-22 victory, although Tim Visser (2) and Geoff Cross scored tries for the hosts, and Hansen believes Vern Cotter’s side can be dangerous if they play like they did last week.
“We have a lot of respect for the Scots and, like all northern hemisphere teams, know that they will bring a lot of physicality to the park,” he added.
“We also expect them to want to move the ball, particularly from any turnovers or free kicks.
“That style certainly suited them last week and makes them, we believe, even more dangerous.”
New Zealand team to face Scotland: Ben Smith (Highlanders); Colin Slade (Crusaders), Malakai Fekitoa (Highlanders), Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), Charles Piutau (Blues); Dan Carter (Crusaders), TJ Perenara (Hurricanes); Joe Moody (Crusaders), James Parsons (Blues), Charlie Faumuina (Blues), Jeremy Thrush (Hurricanes), Dominic Bird (Crusaders), Richie McCaw (Crusaders, captain), Sam Cane (Chiefs), Victor Vito (Hurricanes).
Replacements: Dane Coles (Hurricanes), Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders), Ben Franks (Hurricanes), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Liam Messam (Chiefs); Augustine Pulu (Chiefs), Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs), Julian Savea (Hurricanes).
Not considered due to injury: Brodie Retallick (shoulder), Patrick Tuipulotu (shoulder) and Jerome Kaino (knee).