LONDON (AFP) – All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has ignored star fly-half Dan Carter’s claims for a spot in a revamped side to face England on Saturday, instead entrusting Aaron Cruden as playmaker in the Twickenham cauldron.
Hansen made 10 changes to the run-on side that romped to a 74-6 win over the United States last week, bringing back veterans including skipper Richie McCaw for the toughest Test of the New Zealander’s northern hemisphere tour.
But there was no room even among the reserves for Carter, the world’s leading Test point scorer, who played half an hour off the bench against the Americans after returning from a string of injuries.
Hansen denied he was wrapping the 32-year-old in cotton wool because he was scared of exposing his prize asset to a tough England outfit, saying Carter was simply not ready for a Test of such intensity at this stage of his comeback.
“Dan’s fitness is fine, he just hasn’t played enough rugby yet to play in a match like this,” he said.
Hansen said he also wanted to persist with Cruden’s combination with Sonny Bill Williams, who completed his return from rugby league against the Americans last week, after the pair worked well together in Chicago.
“We’ve seen them against lesser opposition so now we want to see them against some quality opposition,” he said.