Jane back as All Blacks make three changes

Gently does it is not usually the Cory Jane way.

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Yet All Blacks coach Steve Hansen wants exactly that when the 30-year-old makes his remarkable return to Test rugby in Dunedin on Saturday.

When Jane wrenched his knee at Hurricanes pre-season training in January, he was regarded an outside chance to return for New Zealand’s year-end tour of Europe.

Instead, he will start the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia, having done enough in a game-and-a-half of provincial rugby to convince Hansen he is close to his former status as one of the world’s premier wingers.

“He hasn’t lost any form while he’s been injured. What he has lost is time in the jersey,” Hansen said.

“Cory needs to not do everything at 100 miles an hour. Just be patient and trust his instincts particularly, because they’re very, very good.”

The 43-Test veteran is one of three changes and a positional switch from the side which started the 38-27 win over South Africa at Johannesburg two weeks ago.

Jane’s return, made possible by Ben Smith’s shift to centre to replace Conrad Smith – who has begun a four-month break from rugby – were signposted by Hansen.

More unexpected are the promotion of lock Jeremy Thrush and hooker Keven Mealamu for their first starts of the season in place of in-form pair Brodie Retallick and Andrew Hore.

Thrush’s three bench appearances in his debut international year have totalled just 24 minutes.

Hansen says Retallick was in need of break, while Thrush has the chance to prove himself.

“He’s had some little cameos off the bench and done well. It’s time for us to find out a little bit more about Jeremy and the way we can do that is by starting him.

“He’s earned the right to have a crack.”

Mealamu’s 108th Test follows five bench appearances this year, with Dane Coles retained as reserve hooker and Hore dropped completely.

Hansen says 34-year-old Mealamu is better-suited to the mobile game of the Wallabies while 35-year-old Hore is ideal against the more confrontational Springboks.

Jane’s return and the promotion of Thrush is bad news for Auckland youngsters Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua, who have stood out in their debut seasons but can’t make the bench this week.

Three members of a grizzled All Blacks starting pack have played more than 100 Tests, with Mealamu lining up alongside captain Richie McCaw (120 caps) and prop Tony Woodcock (104).

New Zealand are seeking a 10th straight win this year under coach Steve Hansen and a clean sweep of the Bledisloe Cup series after winning the first two Tests in Sydney (47-29) and Wellington (27-16) in August.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (capt), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Jeremy Thrush, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Tom Taylor.

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