Dagg, Kahui return for All Blacks

Williams only makes bench for semi-final; Cruden starts at fly-half

Last Updated: 13/10/11 10:55pm

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Sonny Bill Williams has been dropped to the bench as Israel Dagg and Richard Kahui return to New Zealand's starting XV for the World Cup semi-final against Australia at Eden Park on Sunday.

Dagg has overcome a thigh injury and replaces Mils Muliaina at full-back after Muliaina suffered a tournament-ending broken shoulder during the quarter-final win over Argentina.

And Kahui, who has recovered from the shoulder problem that sidelined him for the last two matches, is preferred to Williams on the wing.

As expected, Aaron Cruden gets the start at fly-half after coming on in the first-half against the Pumas when Colin Slade was injured.

Cruden was only called into New Zealand's World Cup squad after first-choice stand-off Dan Carter's campaign was terminated by a groin injury, while Stephen Donald - drafted in this week after Slade's injury - makes the bench.

"Richard (Kahui) is a superb player. He has been in top form. Sonny Bill (Williams) has been a great player to bring off the bench. He can play a number of positions and he has become a bit of a super sub."
Graham Henry Quotes of the week

The pack is unchanged with skipper Richie McCaw, who has trained little this week due to persistent foot trouble, taking his place at openside flanker.

Ready

"The team was very happy with the way they played in the quarter-final win over Argentina," said All Blacks coach Graham Henry.

"It was a really intense battle, and that is what we needed heading into this weekend's match.

"We have been building slowly this week to be ready for Sunday, when we know there will need to be a further lift in intensity and physicality.

"It's a semi-final in the Rugby World Cup, and the team is excited by the challenge that lies ahead."

On Kahui's selection, he added: "Richard is a superb player. He has been in top form.

"Sonny Bill has been a great player to bring off the bench. He can play a number of positions and he has become a bit of a super sub."

Different

And Henry is unworried about handing the reins to Cruden, who will be making only his second Test start.

"I think it's a bit different from last week. He is the man this week and last week he was a sub," said Henry.

"He's a bright rugby player and knows the game well."

Australia triumphed in the last meeting between the countries almost two months ago, while both previous World Cup contests also went the Wallabies' way in the 1991 and 2003 semi-finals.

New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Piri Weepu; 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 Keven Mealamu, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Sam Whitelock, 5 Brad Thorn, 6 Jerome Kaino, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 8 Kieran Reed
Replacements: 16 Andrew Hore, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Stephen Donald, 22 Sonny Bill Williams

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