Toeava joins old hands for final push

NZPA     23 Nov 2005

The Samoan-born Aucklander, 19, was today named to start at No 15 amid a mix of experienced heads and younger faces as the All Blacks chase just their second Grand Slam against a weak Scotland team.

Born in the same Samoan village of Moto'otua as teammate Rodney So'oialo, Toeava scored five tries and 62 points in four matches at this year's under-19 world championship in South Africa.

At 1.82m and 91kg, and compared by some to mercurial All Blacks Test record try-scorer Christian Cullen, Toeava has also been nominated for the International Rugby Board under-19 player of the year award to be decided this weekend.

The All Blacks selectors selected him for this tour with a view to the future but have only now named him in the playing 22.

The selection of Toeava, the sixth debutante on tour, kept up the theme of developing players in every position, and meant only halfback Jimmy Cowan and hooker Andrew Hore have not started a test in the four matches in the past month.

Just when it seemed captain Umaga would miss the Scotland Test as part of the rotation and development policy, his steadying influence at second five-eighth was preferred to Ma'a Nonu in the absence of the injured Aaron Mauger.

It gives Umaga the chance to be on the field should he become the only All Blacks captain other than Graham Mourie in 1978 to lead New Zealand to a Grand Slam in the past century.

McCaw and Oliver were passed fit to play after missing the 23-19 win over England last weekend, McCaw with the after-effects of a head knock and Oliver with a calf strain.

In a watershed tour where all 35 players will have taken the field, coach Graham Henry made 13 changes from last weekend's starting 15 against England, with only Umaga and lock Chris Jack retaining their places.

Angus Macdonald will make his first All Blacks' Test start in the No 6 jersey after appearing off the bench against Wales in Cardiff, while Sione Lauaki moves to the unfamiliar position of No 8 and Mose Tuiali'i shifts to the bench.

"We want to continue to build depth by giving game time to a number of players," Henry said.

"But we're also mindful that Scotland must be respected. We have looked to balance those objectives."

Lock James Ryan returns after suffering a knee injury against Wales and will partner Jack.

Nick Evans will again don regular pivot Dan Carter's No 10 jersey after a sharp performance with plenty of ball in the 45-7 win over Ireland in Dublin.

The only players ruled out were Mauger, with a grade three strain in an AC joint, and prop Tony Woodcock, who has returned home for a family medical emergency.

The All Blacks trained in a wintry chill at the exclusive Fettes College in central Edinburgh today, a 130-year-old predominantly boarding school once attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

New Zealand: Isaia Toeava, Rico Gear, Conrad Smith, Tana Umaga (captain), Joe Rokocoko, Nick Evans, Piri Weepu, Sione Lauaki, Richie McCaw, Angus Macdonald, James Ryan, Chris Jack, John Afoa, Anton Oliver, Saimone Taumoepeau.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, Jason Eaton, Mose Tuiali'i, Jimmy Cowan, Leon MacDonald, Ma'a Nonu.