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All Blacks bid to scale greater heights in dead rubber

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The All Blacks have the series in the bag but they still want more from their new "integrated" style with the return of ace pivot Dan Carter for the third Test against France on Saturday.

Despite winning 23-13 in Auckland before shutting out France 30-0 in Christchurch, assistant coach Ian Foster said they were still a long way from the balanced running-kicking game they desire.

"The key for us now is learning how to integrate both styles," Foster said ahead of the final match in New Plymouth.

The return of playmaker Carter, who missed the first two Tests because of a broken hand, is one of five changes to the All Blacks while France, desperate to avoid a whitewash, have made eight.

When Aaron Cruden directed play in the first two Tests, the All Blacks favoured a running game first up before switching to a more successful kicking tactic a week later.

Carter, with his vision and experience, is expected to mix up the plays and deny France any sense of predictability.

Head coach Steve Hansen described the impressive 30-0 victory in Christchurch as "a step forward to where we want to go" but said he wants Carter to lift the side to greater heights.

"I don't think France will give us the backfield as easily as they did last time. If we can integrate our running game and kicking game and take the right options at the right time, I'll be really pleased."

Notable among the other All Blacks changes are a starting role for scrumhalf Piri Weepu, playing his 71st Test with his future under threat from Aaron Smith, who started the first two Tests, and replacement Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

Victor Vito replaces Liam Messam in the six jersey as the All Blacks continue to search for an imposing blindside flanker to fill the role vacated by Jerome Kaino after the 2011 World Cup.

If Vito doesn't seize this chance then Steve Lautua is waiting on the bench.

Lautua is covering both lock and six for his prospective debut while the other newcomers likely to get a run in the second half are Matt Todd, a specialist openside, and fullback Charles Piutau.

It has not been a champagne year for France -- bottom of the Six Nations and already 2-0 down in New Zealand -- but coach Philippe Saint-Andre is eager to point out the positives.

"For two Tests we have had more possession than the All Blacks. So the guys can keep the ball, they can play rugby, they can create opportunities," he said.

Two of the eight French changes are straight replacements for the injured Louis Picamoles and Frederic Michalak, and six are players "who can bring us some creativity and a lot of urgency" with an eye on the 2015 World Cup.

The new halves pair of Jean-Marc Doussain and Remi Tales have just three caps between them, while fullback Brice Dulin and wing Marc Andreu have both played six Tests.

In the forwards Benjamin Kayser (18 Tests) starts at hooker and Alexandre Flanquart (one Test) at lock. South African-born Antonie Claassen (three Tests) and Damien Chouly (nine Tests) join the back row.

Saint-Andre said the French preparation has been focused on areas that let them down over the past two weeks.

"It's the last game of a long, long season and our guys need to have a go, they need to respect New Zealand but don't respect them too much."

Teams (15-1)

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Rene Ranger, Dan Carter, Piri Weepu, Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Victor Vito, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Andrew Hore, Wyatt Crockett.

Replacements: Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Ben Franks, Matt Todd, Steven Luatua, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.

France: Brice Dulin, Marc Andreu, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Yoann Huget, Remi Tales, Jean Marc Doussain, Antonie Claassen, Damien Chouly, Thierry Dusautoir (captain), Yoann Maestri, Alexandre Flanquart, Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Thomas Domingo.

Replacements: Dimitri Szarzewski, Eddy Ben Arous, Luc Ducalcon, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Bernard Le Roux, Maxime Machenaud, Camille Lopez, Mathieu Bastareaud.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WAL)

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130621/all-blacks-bid-scale-greater-heights-dead-rubber