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Carter to miss first All Blacks-France test

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Associated Press
6/5/2013 7:34:28 PM
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Star flyhalf Dan Carter has again been forced by injury to miss an All Blacks test against France, conceding the No.10 jersey to Aaron Cruden for Saturday's first test at Eden Park.

Carter suffered a cracked bone in his hand during a Super Rugby match last weekend and was omitted on Thursday from the All Blacks' lineup for the match; the first meeting between the teams since New Zealand's 8-7 win in the 2011 World Cup final.

A serious groin injury forced Carter to miss that match, also handing the starting role to Cruden who in turn suffered a severe knee injury and was replaced.

The All Blacks lineup named by coach Steve Hansen includes two uncapped players on the bench -- Hurricanes lock Jeremy Thrush and Chiefs prop Ben Afeaki.

Hooker Dane Coles has been awarded his first test start, ahead of veterans Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore, after making four previous test appearances off the bench. Mealamu has been named as reserve.

Utility back Ben Smith, who has also played at centre and fullback, has been named on the right wing, allowing the New Zealand selectors to play the out-of-form Israel Dagg at fullback. The lineup is notable for the number of players chosen despite poor form during the Super Rugby season.

Cruden will play outside scrumhalf Aaron Smith and inside centre Ma'a Nonu, both of whom have struggled to command starting places for the Dunedin-based Highlanders, the last-placed team in Super Rugby. Nonu will play his 77th test, renewing his long-standing midfield combination with 66-test veteran Conrad Smith, to provide the nucleus of a backline that is otherwise light on experience.

Julian Savea has been named on the left wing for his 10th test match after a disrupted season during which he has appeared in court on charges of domestic violence.

Kieran Read will captain the team from No. 8 in his 49th test and in the absence of Richie McCaw, who is taking a "sabbatical" from top rugby and won't return until the Rugby Championships in August. Sam Cane will start in McCaw's place on the openside flank.

Luke Romano and Brodie Retallick, who share 24 test appearances, will combine in the second row as New Zealand's only fit and experienced locking partnership. An injury to Sam Whitelock and the retirement of Ali Williams left Romano and Retallick as guaranteed starters and fast-tracked Thrush into the test lineup when the selectors' next candidate, Dominic Bird, was also injured.

Coles will start at hooker between Crusaders prop Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett while two looseheads, Ben Franks and Afeaki, have been included on the bench.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow has been named as the scrumhalf reserve in place of Piri Weepu who has a concussion while Beauden Barrett will understudy Cruden. Auckland Blues centre Rene Ranger could play his first test in three years if he gets a call from the bench.

"Though the week has been disrupted with injury and illness, we have still been able to have a good week's preparation and there is no doubting that our two (training) camps have been invaluable in assisting with this," Hansen said.

"To their credit, everyone has worked hard off the field and we couldn't be happier."

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New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Kane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Dane Coles, Wyatt Crocket. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks, Ben Afeaki, Jeremy Thrush, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Rene Ranger.

France: Yoann Huget, Adrien Plante, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard, Camille Lopez, Maxime Machenaud, Louis Picamoles, Fulgence Ouedraogo, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Luc Ducalcon, Dimitri Szarzewski, Thomas Domingo. Reserves: Guilhem Guirado, Vincent Debaty, Daniel Kotze, Alexandre Flanquart, Yannick Nyanga, Jean-Marc Doussain, Frederic Michalak, Maxime Mermoz.

Dan Carter (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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