Daniel Carter has been named in the New Zealand starting XV for Saturday's must-win Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia in Sydney.
Since being recalled to the All Blacks squad last week following good performances for his province Canterbury, the star fly-half had been expected to slot straight back into the number 10 position after both Stephen Donald and Luke McAlister struggled in the role while he was absent with an Achilles injury.
Donald now finds himself on the bench, while McAlister, in his preferred position of inside centre, gets his second start this year, replacing Ma'a Nonu in the midfield.
Joining Nonu and Donald on the bench is number eight Rodney So'oialo, who has also paid for some indifferent form and has been replaced by Kieran Read.
In all there are three changes to the starting XV that took to the field against South Africa in Durban at the start of the month.
Elsewhere in the reserves, hooker Aled de Malmanche gets his first crack in the Tri-Nations, taking over from the injured Keven Mealamu, and Brendon Leonard replaces Piri Weepu, who is out with an ankle injury.
Cory Jane, who was on the bench in Durban, has missed out altogether with coach Graham Henry opting for Nonu in the reserves and choosing to stick with Joe Rokocoko on the right wing despite him struggling with his form.
"It doesn't get much bigger than this," said Henry, who along with his assistants Wayne Smith and Steve Hansen will take charge of their 70th All Blacks Test on Saturday.
"The Bledisloe Cup is on the line and it's really a win or lose match in the Tri-Nations so that makes it an exciting challenge for us."
Meanwhile, Australia coach Robbie Deans has placed enormous faith in James O'Connor to deliver the goods after naming the teenager at full-back the match.
It will be O'Connor's first start in a Bledisloe Cup Test after impressing in the position off the bench during the last 50 minutes against South Africa.
And in a further boost to the Wallabies' chances of clinching their first win in the Tri-Nations series, Deans has recalled Rocky Elsom to the side for the first time since last August.
Elsom will make his comeback in Australian colours on the blindside flank, having finally overcome a serious knee injury.
The presence of Elsom necessitates the third change, with Richard Brown being shifted from the side to the back of the scrum in place of Wycliff Palu.
Brown played his first eight Tests for Australia as a number 8, before being switched to the side of the scrum for the opening two matches of the Tri-Nations to accommodate the return from injury of Palu.
Elsom returned to Australia with the Barbarians at the end of May, but was unable to play due to bruising in his knee which has kept the 26-year-old on the sidelines since.
He was player of the final in Leinster's historic European Cup win over Leicester in May.
Saturday night will be his 41st Test, but his first since the deciding game of last year's Tri-Nations at Brisbane.
"While he hasn't been able to get a game in, Rocky has done the work to get back up to speed. We are satisfied that he is good to go," Deans said.
"It is a big ask of him to make his comeback in a Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations Test, but that's the reality of our schedule, and is the sort of challenge he thrives on."
On O'Connor, Deans said the decision to start him was not considered a risk but was based on the way the Western Force back had performed in South Africa.
"He showed in Cape Town that he was quite capable of handling himself at this level," Deans said.
"The pressure there, given the circumstance in which James entered the game (Australia were 10-20 down and had just lost skipper Stirling Mortlock to injury), was as great then as it could be, and he acquitted himself well.
"As did Adam, when he moved into centre after Stirling was injured. Saturday is another good opportunity for him in the midfield."
Adam Ashley-Cooper moves from full-back to centre to accommodate the change.
George Smith will lead the side for the fourth time under Deans, which included wins over New Zealand and the Barbarians last year, and Italy in Melbourne earlier this year.
"George has filled the role before in similar circumstances and is not fazed by it," Deans said.
"He's been there before, and been successful. That level of experience is going to be crucial on Saturday night, especially when you look at the depth of experience (in the All Blacks) that will be coming back at us the other way."
Australia currently sit at the bottom of the Tri-Nations standings.
Australia team: J O'Connor; L Turner, A Ashley-Cooper, B Barnes, D Mitchell: M Giteau, L Burgess; B Robinson, S Moore, A Baxter, J Horwill, N Sharpe, R Elsom, G Smith, R Brown.
Reserves: T Polota-Nau, B Alexander, D Mumm, D Pocock, W Genia, R Cross, P Hynes.
New Zealand Team: Mils Muliaina; Joe Rokocoko, Conrad Smith, Luke McAlister, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Daniel Carter, Jimmy Cowan; Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Brad Thorn, Isaac Ross, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (capt), Kieran Read.
Reserves: Aled de Malmanche, John Afoa, Jason Eaton, Rodney So'oialo, Brendon Leonard, Stephen Donald, Ma'a Nonu.Reuse content