Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Faumuina in first start

As the All Blacks go after a winning sequence, four players seek another record.

As the All Blacks search to equal a global winning sequence this weekend against the Wallabies, four of the squad have the chance of playing in each test.

Senior lock Sam Whitelock will start while Owen Franks, Andrew Hore and Piri Weepu need to come from the bench at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

The selectors have made two changes with Charlie Faumuina getting his first test start at tighthead prop and beside him Keven Mealamu returning to start his 100th test.

Faumuina's squad selection in June was stymied by a calf muscle injury before he made the first of his three replacement appearances against Argentina in Wellington.

The All Blacks will revisit the scene of their last defeat, almost 14 months ago, as they attempt to claim their 17th successive test win. That would equal the tier one mark shared by the All Blacks of the late 60's and the Springboks of the late 90's, with Lithuania the outright recordholder with 18 consecutive victories.

The Wallabies beat the All Blacks 25-20 at Suncorp, putting a few doubts into the hosts and more bounce into Australia.

They met in the World Cup semifinal under the gaze of this weekend's referee, Craig Joubert, and the All Blacks were convincing winners.

Twice this year they have beaten the Wallabies although their first effort in Sydney was a bit ragged.

Those contests have been part of an unbroken winning sequence since the All Blacks made a rumbling World Cup start against Tonga.

Franks is the only player in the squad who started that test and every subsequent victory while of the others involved in each test, Whitelock has come from the bench twice, Hore nine times and Weepu 11.

Mealamu will become the third player after captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina to play 100 tests for the All Blacks after making his debut on the 2002 end-of-year tour against Wales.

Earlier, Hore had played his first tests against England and France as coach John Mitchell took a young squad and left 21 players at home to recuperate for the 2003 World Cup. Subsequently Mealamu was picked for that tournament as one of the hookers with Anton Oliver and Mark Hammett while Hore missed out.

Hore is six months older than Mealamu, after turning 34 last month and has accrued 71 international caps.

The next players in line to reach 100 tests caps are Daniel Carter and Tony Woodcock but they will have to wait until next season.

Both have played 91 internationals with Ma'a Nonu the next most capped player in the squad with 72 test appearances.

Australia v NZ
Brisbane, 11pm Saturday

All Blacks

Israel Dagg
Cory Jane
Conrad Smith
Ma'a Nonu
Hosea Gear
Daniel Carter
Aaron Smith
Kieran Read
Richie McCaw (c)
Liam Messam
Sam Whitelock
Brodie Retallick
Charlie Faumuina
Keven Mealamu
Tony Woodcock

All Blacks: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

Australia

Mike Harris
Nick Cummins
Ben Tapuai
Pat McCabe
A. Ashley-Cooper
Kurtley Beale
Nick Phipps
Wycliff Palu
Michael Hooper
S. Higginbotham
Nathan Sharpe (c)
Sitaleki Timani
Ben Alexander
Tatafu Polota Nau
Benn Robinson

Australia: James Hanson, James Slipper, Kane Douglas, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Drew Mitchell.



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