Rugby: Thorne to captain ABs against Canada

Reuben Thorne will captain the All Blacks against Canada in Hamilton on Saturday, in the absence of Richie McCaw.

Meanwhile, lock Ross Filipo and prop John Schwalger will make their All Blacks debuts at the game.

Filipo and Greg Rawlinson were called into the squad last Sunday following injuries to Keith Robinson (calf) and Ali Williams (broken jaw).

Hurricanes prop Schwalger will also make his test debut on the weekend.

Meanwhile, wing Rico Gear has joined the All Blacks and midfield replacement Ma'a Nonu has been released to join the Junior All Blacks, who play Australia A in Dunedin, also on Saturday.

The return of Gear, who has played in 17 tests, is prompted by the impending paternity leave for Doug Howlett, who will not travel to South Africa on Sunday for the following weekend's Tri-Nations match against South Africa in Durban.

Lock Chris Jack is also not available for Saturday's test or the following week's match in Durban as he too will be on paternity leave.

"The guys need to put their families first," All Blacks coach Graham Henry said.

"We support their decision to be with their partners. Ross will start this weekend's test and Rico has plenty of experience in our environment. So they will be up to speed before we start the Philips Tri Nations."

"We've got some new combinations for the test in Hamilton which is a chance to further our depth and options, and gives us something of a fresh challenge."

Mils Muliaina returns from injury to play at fullback, with Howlett and Sitiveni Sivivatu the wingers.

Conrad Smith, also ruled out with a hamstring injury against France, has been bracketed at centre with Luke McAlister.

First five-eighth Daniel Carter is also back from injury.

All Blacks:

Mils Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Conrad Smith/Luke McAlister, Aaron Mauger, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Daniel Carter, Byron Kelleher, Jerry Collins, Chris Masoe, Reuben Thorne (captain), Ross Filipo, Troy Flavell, Neemia Tialata, Andrew Hore, John Schwalger.

Reserves:

Keven Mealamu, Carl Hayman, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw, Piri Weepu, McAlister/Rico Gear, Leon MacDonald

- NZHERALD STAFF

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