Mealamu restored to All Blacks

New Zealand have restored hooker Keven Mealamu to their starting line-up for Saturday’s Invesco Perpetual autumn series clash with Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

The potential Grand Slam-clinching clash against Warren Gatland’s men sees Mealamu return after missing the wins over Scotland and Ireland through suspension.

The Blues hooker is one of five changes which brushed aside the challenge of Ireland last weekend.

Lock Brad Thorn returns from a hamstring injury to win his 50th cap, with hooker Andrew Hore set to bring up his own half-century if he is called upon from the bench.

Thorn will be partnered in the second row by Sam Whitelock, who scored a try as a second-half replacement against Ireland, while Jimmy Cowan gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Andy Ellis.
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Centre Sonny Bill Williams gets the chance to add to his burgeoning reputation as he is handed his third Test start alongside Conrad Smith in midfield.

The other change to the starting XV sees Isaia Toeava start on the right wing as Cory Jane drops out of the 22.

Fly-half Dan Carter, who is just three short of breaking Jonny Wilkinson’s all-time Test points record of 1,178, is also named after sitting out training on Tuesday with a slight ankle complaint while Daniel Braid provides the back-row cover on the bench.

Coach Graham Henry said: “The team wants to finish the tour on a high with a good performance against Wales and the chance to create their own piece of history with a Grand Slam.

“But they also know that they will face a passionate, physical Welsh team playing in front of a sold-out Millennium Stadium, so are under no illusions about the massive job ahead.”

New Zealand also confirmed there will be a minute’s silence before Saturday’s match as a mark of respect for the 29 people who lost their lives in the Pike River mining tragedy. The All Blacks will also wear white armbands.

New Zealand team to play Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday:

M Muliaina (Chiefs); I Toeava (Blues), C Smith (Hurricanes), SB Williams (Crusaders), H Gear (Hurricanes); D Carter (Crusaders), J Cowan (Highlanders); T Woodcock (Blues), K Mealamu (Blues), O Franks (Crusaders), B Thorn (Crusaders), S Whitelock (Crusaders), J Kaino (Blues), R McCaw (Crusaders, captain), K Read (Crusaders).

Replacements: A Hore (Hurricanes), J Afoa (Blues), A Boric (Blues), D Braid (Queensland Reds), A Ellis (Crusaders), S Donald (Chiefs), M Nonu (Hurricanes)