All Blacks: Muliaina gets his chance

Mils Muliaina will play in his 99th test for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images
Mils Muliaina will play in his 99th test for the All Blacks. Photo / Getty Images

All Blacks coach Graham Henry has made seven changes to his team to play pool A opponents Japan at the Rugby World Cup in Hamilton on Friday night.

98-Test fullback Mils Muliaina returns to the side, while the other changes in the backs are at halfback, with Andy Ellis getting his first start of the Rugby World Cup, at centre where Conrad Smith returns in place of Sonny Bill Williams and Cory Jane has been named on the right wing.

Muliaina replaces Israel Dagg in the lineup who scored two tries in New Zealand opening 41-10 win against Tonga. Dagg drops out of the All Black squad completely with no spot on the bench for him.

Jimmy Cowan and Isaia Toeava, who started against Tonga, also miss out on game time for Friday night.

In the forwards, flanker Adam Thomson has recovered from his elbow injury to take his place at number eight; hooker Keven Mealamu returns to the run-on XV; and Sam Whitelock replaces Ali Williams at lock.

Captain Richie McCaw will play in his 100th test.

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry has today saluted McCaw's contribution to New Zealand rugby.

"Richie is a very special man. He provides inspiration to New Zealanders because of his total commitment to enhancing the reputation of New Zealand through the success of the All Blacks team.

"He is incredibly brave, skilful and a hugely intelligent player who has the total respect of his team through the many deeds and successes he has achieved on the rugby field, and his ability to lead from the front.

"On behalf of the All Blacks coaches, management and fellow players, I would like to congratulate him on being the first player in All Blacks history to achieve 100 Tests - a truly remarkable milestone.

All Blacks team

1. Tony Woodcock (77)
2. Keven Mealamu (86)
3. Owen Franks (25)
4. Brad Thorn (53)
5. Sam Whitelock (19)
6. Jerome Kaino (42)
7. Richie McCaw - captain (99)
8. Adam Thomson (22)
9. Andy Ellis (21)
10. Daniel Carter (84)
11. Richard Kahui (13)
12. Ma'a Nonu (61)
13. Conrad Smith (49)
14. Cory Jane (27)
15. Mils Muliaina (98)

Reserves:

16. Andrew Hore (56)
17. John Afoa (34)
18. Ali Williams (67)
19. Victor Vito (9)
20. Piri Weepu (50)
21. Colin Slade (6)
22. Sonny Bill Williams (8)

- HERALD ONLINE

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