All Black playmaker Dan Carter was included in a near full-strength New Zealand side unveiled by coach Graham Henry for this weekend’s Twickenham encounter against England.
The star fly-half was banned from Saturday’s 20-6 win away to Italy in Milan while serving a one-week suspension for a high tackle on Wales replacement scrum-half Martin Roberts during the All Blacks’ 19-12 win in Cardiff on November 7.
Carter, who has been struggling with a calf injury, may well have been rested from the Italy game in any event.
World’s best go head to head
But now, with the benefit of a week’s break, he is ready to pit his wits against England No 10 Jonny Wilkinson as the world’s two best current stand-offs go head-to-head.
“If you’ve got a good 10, things go quite well for you,” said New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen.
“They are probably the two best 10s in the last decade. When you get two of the best players in the world up against each other, it makes for a great contest.”
First choice right wing Cory Jane and leading tighthead prop Neemia Tialata, the only two All Blacks to have so far played all three Tests on a tour that began with a Bledisloe Cup win over Australia in Tokyo, were rested by Henry.
“Neemia and Cory have played every game on tour, we thought it time to give them a bit of space,” Henry said.
They were replaced by 20-year-old Zac Guildford, winning only his second cap and 21-year-old Owen Franks, gaining his eighth, respectively.
New Zealand captain and stand-out openside flanker Richie McCaw, in line to become the first man to win the IRB player of the year award twice, returned to lead the team after not taking the field against Italy.
Wing Sitiveni Sivivatu and lock Tom Donnelly were the only two survivors from the New Zealand team that won at the San Siro stadium.
On the bench hooker Corey Flynn, suffering with a hamstring strain, has been bracketed alongside Aled de Malmanche, who arrived in London on Wednesday after being summoned from holiday in Bali.
New Zealand have won their last seven Tests against England, who last weekend struggled to beat Argentina 16-9.
But Henry, whose side posted a New Zealand Twickenham record score of 32-6 in last year’s corresponding fixture said: “It doesn’t get much bigger than England at Twickenham.
“It will be another fantastic challenge for the All Blacks. We are focused on preparing well and look forward to playing a determined England side.”
England were so dire in attack against the Pumas they were booed at half-time by the normally loyal Twickenham crowd.
But Henry, who had England manager Martin Johnson as his captain when coaching the 2001 Lions in Australia, was in no doubt the hosts would raise their game this weekend.
“They’ve been here before, they got booed in the 2007 World Cup and ended up playing in the final,” said former Wales coach Henry.
Earlier Wednesday, Johnson recalled veterans Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley to England’s pack and Henry added: “I don’t know some of them (the England players) but I know Joe Worsley and Simon Shaw.
“They’ve been around a long time, they are quality footballers and will add a physicality to their pack.
“We respect England,” Henry said. “They are inclined to come right when they play big games.
“This Test match they will be on the edge of the edge, England will play well and give 100 percent. We’ve got no illusions about where they are at. We are expecting a big test.”