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Rugby World Cup: New Zealand unchanged for final as stars look to bow out in style

New Zealand has selected an unchanged and vastly experienced team for Sunday's (AEDT) Rugby World Cup final against Australia as it seeks to retain the title and become the first country to win the trophy three times.

After the squad came through a bruising semi-final against South Africa, Steve Hansen can field his strongest unit, including the same bench, with the matchday 23 boasting a remarkable 1,339 caps.

Flyhalf Dan Carter will play in his 112th and last international, hoping to bow out on the ultimate high having missed most of the last tournament after being injured in the pool stage and been knocked out in the quarter-finals in 2007.

Centres Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, reserve hooker Keven Mealamu and, almost certainly, captain Richie McCaw, will also be retiring from the test scene after Saturday's game, the five taking almost 600 caps worth of experience with them.
Seven of the starting team were in the match 15 who played in the win over France in the final four years ago in Auckland.
When you've got experienced players and they are in good form, that's a massive advantage.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen
"We wanted to get some stability. We wanted to get to the business end of the tournament pretty solid on our selection. We have had limited injuries so we have been very lucky," coach Steve Hansen told reporters at the team's Pennyhill Park training base in Surrey.
"When you've got experienced players and they are in good form, that's a massive advantage."
Hansen said the key to this week's preparation was to do the same things as in any Test week.

"You have to quietly build day-by-day. We don't want to get carried away, do things differently, because it is the final. We know what works for us, the formula's pretty proven, and we need to stick to that and make good decisions," he said.
Hansen added that he was unaware of a reported edict within the Wallabies camp that the players were not allowed to refer to their rivals as the All Blacks.

"I hadn't heard that," he said. "They can call us what they want - being Aussies, they probably will."
McCaw is attempting to become the first captain to hoist the Webb Ellis trophy twice and stuck to his guns on Thursday when pressed on his future beyond the weekend.
"I've purposely not got into that as I didn't want to get all hung up about could be and might be," he said.

"It's no secret that I need to have a good reflect when I get home but it just hasn't entered my mind this week.

"I just want to play this weekend as best as I can. I haven't allowed myself to think a second past the final whistle - that leads to unhelpful thoughts.
"As far as becoming the first person to lift it twice, well if we get that performance right, it'll be something that's pretty nice to do."


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