All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and Australian skipper Stirling Mortlock have both been ruled out of Saturday’s Tri-Nations test.
McCaw has not sufficiently recovered from an ankle injury, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has said, while Mortlock failed to recover from a knock to the head in his side’s 16-9 victory over South Africa last Saturday.
McCaw had been bracketed with fellow openside flanker Daniel Braid, who will now start the game at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium.
McCaw was a surprise inclusion when the team was named on Tuesday. He suffered the injury last month against England and had been expected to be out for a minimum of six weeks. Wellington Hurricanes captain Rodney So’oialo will again lead the side in McCaw’s absence.
Rugby league convert Ryan Cross will replace Mortlock for the game, which also doubles as the first of four Bledisloe Cup matches. Flanker George Smith will captain the Wallabies in Mortlock’s absence.
Cross, 28, has won three caps as a replacement since making the squad for the first test against France in June, but Saturday’s match at Sydney’s Olympic stadium will be his first appearance in the starting side.
Cross, who played rugby union at schoolboy level, joined the Perth-based Western Force Super 14 team two years ago. He made an immediate impression when he scored two tries against France in Brisbane after coming on in the second half.
Cross’s elevation to the starting side means a call-up to the bench for another former rugby league player, Timana Tahu.
Tahu, 27, switched to union with the New South Waratahs at the start of the year after a successful career during which he played for Parramatta, New South Wales and Australia.
In the only other change to the 22-man squad, lock Dan Vickerman returns to the side after recovering from ankle surgery, replacing Queensland’s Hugh McMeniman on the bench.
Eight members of the squad, Cross, Tahu, centre Berrick Barnes, winger Peter Hynes, scrumhalf Luke Burgess, lock James Horwill, prop Benn Robinson and replacement hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will be playing the All Blacks for the first time.
Australia: 15-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14-Peter Hynes, 13-Ryan Cross, 12-Berrick Barnes, 11-Lote Tuqiri, 10-Matt Giteau, 9-Luke Burgess, 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-George Smith, 6-Rocky Elsom, 5-Nathan Sharpe, 4-James Horwill, 3-Al Baxter, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Benn Robinson
Replacements: 16-Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17-Matt Dunning, 18-Dan Vickerman, 19-Phil Waugh, 20-Sam Cordingley, 21-Timana Tahu, 22-Drew Mitchell
New Zealand: 15-Mils Muliaina, 14-Anthony Tuitavake, 13-Richard Kahui, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10-Dan Carter, 9-Andy Ellis, 8-Jerome Kaino, 7-Daniel Braid, 6-Rodney So’oialo (captain), 5-Ali Williams, 4-Brad Thorn, 3-Greg Somerville, 2-Andrew Hore, 1-Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16-Keven Mealamu, 17-John Afoa, 18-Anthony Boric, 19-Sione Lauaki, 20-Jimmy Cowan, 21-Stephen Donald, 22-Conrad SmithReuse content