The talk has been about the minor injuries to key New Zealand players. It makes sense to me that in this tournament you do not need to risk further injury. The whole squad is expected to be able to take the place of others. That is why you have a squad. So to me it is perfectly reasonable to replace McCaw and Carter if they are not fit to play.
Japan has, on the other hand, made their selections based on needs. The Japanese are not targeting the New Zealand game as a game they must win so have put a second-string side on the paddock. Fair enough. I just hope the game does not blow out score wise. In 1995 New Zealand crushed Japan 145-17 with what was, on the day, an All Black second-string side. I have a feeling something similar might happen today.
The All Blacks selected have everything to play for. A dynamic display could mean you are in the side to play France next weekend. For the Japanese, there is little to play for. Motivation is what will win the game easily for the All Blacks.
Previous Encounter 04.06.1995 New Zealand 145-17 in Bloemfontein (World Cup)
This is the only occasion the two teams have meet on a full test basis. Japanese sides have meet NZ Maori, NZ Juniors and a New Zealand XV in internationals that Japan has awarded test caps for.
GWC Rugby Rankings World Table-New Zealand 3rd, Japan 12th
IRB Ranking Points New Zealand 90.95, Japan 71.95
Prediction: New Zealand by 65 points
New Zealand 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Richard Kahui, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andrew Ellis, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Adam Thomson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Bradley Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, Capt. 1 Tony Woodcock.
16 Andrew Hore, 17 John Afoa, 18 Alistair Williams, 19 Anthony Boric, 20 James Cowan, 21 Piri Weepu, 22 Sonny Bill Williams
Head Coach: Graham Henry
Japan 15 Taihei Ueda, 14 Takahisa Usuzuki, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Yuta Imamura,
11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 Murray Williams, 9 Atsushi Hiwasa, 8 Takashi Kikutani, Capt. 7 Michael Leitch, 6 Itaru Taniguchi, 5 Toshizumi Kitagawa,
4 Hithoshi Ono, 3 Nozomu Fujita, 2 Yusuke Aoki, 1 Naoki Kawamata
Replacements 16 Hiroki Yuhara, 17 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 18 Yuji Kitagawa, 19 Sione Talikavili Vatuvei, 20 Tomoki Yoshida, 21 Shaun Webb, 22 Alisi Tupuailai
Head Coach: John Kirwan