All Blacks go with Donnelly

Rookie lock to start in final Tri-Nations match

Last Updated: 16/09/09 9:02am

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Donnelly: starting role

Donnelly: starting role

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Highlanders second-row Tom Donnelly will make his debut for New Zealand against Australia at the weekend.

"I sort of thought I might be a shot on the bench this week but didn't think I'd be starting. I'm on top of the world, on cloud nine really."
Tom Donnelly Quotes of the week

The 27-year-old lock has replaced Isaac Ross in the starting line-up for Saturday's Tri-Nations dead rubber in Wellington and is one of five personnel changes for the All Blacks.

Donnelly, who only came into the squad on a full-time basis after New Zealand returned from the match against the Wallabies in Sydney, was shocked to be called up.

Surprise

"I got a couple of runs in the pack yesterday but didn't really have any other clue," he said.

"I sort of thought I might be a shot on the bench this week but didn't think I'd be starting. I'm on top of the world, on cloud nine really."

"I worried the opportunity has passed. It played on my mind a lot and wore me down.

"But at the start of the year I stopped worrying about it so much and started to concentrate on my rugby - and I seem to have played a bit better for that."

Donnelly is particularly strong in the set-piece, having been the lineout mainstay for Otago since 2002 and the Highlanders in the Super 14 since 2004, and assistant coach Steve Hansen has no doubt about his ability.

"He's come and spent the last couple of weeks with us, and we've been really impressed with him," said Hansen.

"His aerial skills are good, and he scrums well. They're things we're looking for obviously, and he gets round the park.

"If you're going to replace someone like Isaac you need your aerial skills, and he probably does the physical stuff a little bit better than Issac at the moment."

Changes

Tighthead prop Owen Franks and blindside flanker Jerome Kaino are the other casualties in the pack, with Neemia Tialata and Adam Thomson coming into the team in their place.

In the backs, as expected, Stephen Donald makes way for Ma'a Nonu to shift back to inside-centre - with Isaia Toeava starting in the number 13 jersey.

Joe Rokocoko has escaped the cull and switches to the left wing in place of the injured Sitiveni Sivivatu, giving Cory Jane a start out wide on the right.

On the bench, Hosea Gear has been brought in. He last played against Munster last year after making his debut against Australia in Hong Kong.

New Zealand: 15 M Muliaina, 14 C Jane, 13 I Toeava, 12 M Nonu, 11 J Rokocoko, 10 D Carter, 9 J Cowan; 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 A Hore, 3 M Tialata, 4 B Thorn, 5 T Donnelly, 6 A Thomson, 7 R McCaw (capt), 8 K Read
Reserves:16 A de Malmanche, 17 J Afoa, 18 J Eaton, 19 R So'oialo, 20 B Leonard, 21 S Donald, 22 H Gear

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