All Blacks: Richie McCaw to be first to 100 tests

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty Images

Richie McCaw will become the first All Black to play 100 tests when he leads the team for their second Rugby World Cup game against Japan on Friday.

McCaw made his debut against Ireland nearly a decade ago and last year surpassed Sean Fitzpatrick as the most capped and most successful test captain.

There had been an expectation he would bring up the milestone with Mils Muliaina but the fullback wasn't picked for the World Cup opener against Tonga and is one behind. Muliaina replaces Israel Dagg in the side and will play his 99th test and will get a chance to press his claims for the No 15 jersey for the rest of the tournament.

His inclusion is one of seven changes to the side that beat Tonga 41-10. Andy Ellis starts at halfback in place of Jimmy Cowan, Conrad Smith slots in at centre with Ma'a Nonu moving into second five-eighths and Cory Jane comes onto the right wing for Richard Kahui, who switches flank in place of Isaia Toeava. Dan Carter appears to have shaken off the effects of a sore back picked up in a rugged game with Tonga to start at first five-eighths.

In the forwards, Adam Thomson has recovered from the elbow injury he picked up in the last Tri Nations test against Australia to start at No 8 and hooker Keven Mealamu returns to the starting side after missing the Tonga game. Sam Whitelock moves into his more customary locking position with Ali Williams dropping down to the bench.

Smith will play his 50th test but it will be totally overshadowed by McCaw, who will be pleased to get the milestone out of the way early in the tournament.

"Richie is a very special man," Henry said. "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."

Japan go into the match on a high after threatening to topple France in this opening game before conceding three late tries to go down 47-21.

They are more focussed on beating Tonga and Canada and are expected to make a number of changes to their side when it is named this afternoon.

The two sides have met just once in a test, when the All Blacks thumped Japan 145-17 - a record for the most points scored in a World Cup game - in South Africa in 1995. They played them in two matches in Japan in 1987, winning 74-0 and 106-4.

Even so, Henry was talking up how much of a challenge Japan would be on the back of their effort against France.

"There is no doubt that they are a very good team and well coached by John Kirwan and Mick Byrne,'' he said. ``They are physical at the breakdown, play the game at speed and will be a real threat if we let them play like that so we will have to be on top of our game."

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)

- APNZ

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