Hansen keeps All Blacks and Italy guessing with team selections
James Mortimer 15 Nov 2012 Getty Images
Potentially telegraphed changes in the pack will see Keven Mealamu, Ali Williams, Liam Messam and Kieran Read start – incumbent members of the team who played minimal part in the All Blacks test against Scotland last weekend.
Read is expected to captain the All Blacks for the first time, with formal vice-captain Dan Carter likely to join captain Richie McCaw as a non-starter.
However Carter may play some role, due to the spectre of injuries to the All Blacks midfield, with Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith confirmed absentees in Rome.
Other changes that may occur out wide will be the reinstatement of All Blacks first choice number nine Aaron Smith, although Tawera Kerr-Barlow looms as a potential dark horse, especially considering his Super Rugby combination with Aaron Cruden, who is expected to wear the ten jersy.
Israel Dagg has made a solid recovery from a heavy fall suffered in the first half against Scotland, but Beauden Barrett covered him with aplomb for the remainder of the Test match, and the Hurricanes playmaker could feature as custodian – although Cory Jane is another option.
One thing is for certain, the cherished competition for spots is alive and well, with Victor Vito, Piri Weepu and Luke Romano putting in strong performances that will give the All Blacks selectors plenty to chew on as the Air New Zealand European Tour continues.
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