Sonny Bill to face England, no Carter in NZ squad

Saturday, 8 November 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

  Reuters: Code-hopping centre Sonny Bill Williams has been given another opportunity to showcase his game-breaking ability after two years in rugby league as All Blacks’ coach Steve Hansen named a virtually full-strength team to face England at Twickenham on Saturday. The 2011 World Cup winner, who burst back onto the international scene last week against the United States with two tries after two years in the Australia’s National Rugby League, was the only real surprise in Hansen’s selections for the match. “We just think Sonny brings something pretty unique,” Hansen told New Zealand’s Fairfax Media in London of the decision to give him the start instead of incumbent rookie Malaki Fekitoa or the versatile Ryan Crotty. “We have seen him against lesser opposition and now we just need to see him against quality opposition. If he can do what he did the week before it will be good.” Hansen added that Fekitoa, who had impressed after shifting into inside centre following Ma’a Nonu’s injury against South Africa in September, was not considered to better manage his workload. “We looked at Malakai and he has had a massive season and just a wee breather for a couple of weeks won’t do him any harm,” Hansen said. The coach also chose not to stretch flyhalf Daniel Carter, who played for 30 minutes against the Eagles last week in Chicago in his first test in almost a year, in the pressure environment in London. Carter was not named in the matchday 23 to face Stuart Lancaster’s side as he continues to recover from a broken leg, with Beauden Barrett to come off the bench. Aaron Cruden retained the starting jersey in the pivotal position. “Dan’s fitness is fine. He just hasn’t played enough rugby yet to play in a match like this,” Hansen added. Hansen restored his first-choice pack with loose forwards Jerome Kaino and captain Richie McCaw returning to join Kieran Read after they missed the Eagles’ match, while the entire starting tight five has changed from last week’s 74-6 victory.  

 Odds stacked in favour of southern hemisphere teams

Reuters: England, Wales and Ireland will face the unfamiliar feeling of being underdogs in their own backyards when host southern hemisphere opposition in test matches on Saturday. The home countries will have their credentials for next year’s World Cup seriously tested when England face world champions New Zealand, Wales play Australia and South Africa visit Ireland – and the odds are stacked against them. Since taking the England job in 2012, coach Stuart Lancaster has mustered just two wins over the southern hemisphere’s big three in 11 matches and adding a third against the All Blacks at Twickenham looks unlikely, with British bookmakers making the visitors 1/3 favourites. Wales have not beaten Australia in nearly six years, losing their last nine meetings against the Wallabies, but they are seen as the most likely host victors at 13/10, with Six Nations champions Ireland 2/1 to beat South Africa. The trip to Europe will be a marker for the touring sides ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England and Wales, with a team from the southern hemisphere 2/1 favourites to lift the trophy and a European winner an outside 4/11 bet.