Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: McCaw to get game time at No8

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Richie McCaw and Kieran Read have split the captaincy with the Crusaders and All Blacks and are job sharing on the end of year tour.

For just the second time in his illustrious career, McCaw will start a test at No8 when the tourists begin their latest trip on Saturday against Japan in Tokyo.

Initially the All Blacks' gold-plated stars McCaw and Daniel Carter were going to bypass the match but injuries to both have forced coach Steve Hansen to rejig his plans.

McCaw missed the June series as he finished his sabbatical and then three tests in the Rugby Championship because of knee and calf injuries while Carter has played even less.

Leg, shoulder injuries and a broken thumb have restricted his test appearances to just three from a possible 10 this season so both he and McCaw are being primed to start this match.

"I think Japanese rugby is on a high at the moment," Carter said after the squad touched down in Tokyo.

"You know they beat Wales in the last test match so we have to make sure we do our homework on the Japan side so we can play well on Saturday," he said.

McCaw will operate in a loose trio combination with Sam Cane and Steve Luatua with new pick Luke Whitelock on the bench as Read and Liam Messam fly to Paris to prepare for the test against France.

That is the plan but McCaw and Carter have been named in other selections this year and had to withdraw because of ongoing niggles.

One former All Black watching in Tokyo will be Jerome Kaino who will be named today in the Blues squad for next season. Despite growing scuttlebutt, the Blues say they have not picked up utility Isaia Toeava from his Japanese commitments.

Kaino wants to return to joust for a place in the 2015 World Cup.

Kaino played 48 tests until his exit when Victor Vito and Adam Thomson shared the duties. But with those two overseas or out of favour, Messam and tyro Blues blindsider Steven Luatua have brought some lively results in that role.

Wing Frank Halai is being set for his All Black debut against Japan while Charles Piutau looks to be a good bet on the other flank so Beauden Barrett can begin at fullback before switching to five eighths deeper in the test.

The All Black selectors want to use their new recruits and most of the others with slim test experience against Japan.

Halai, TJ Perenara, Whitelock, Dominic Bird and Jeffery Toomaga-Allen have not played a test while Francis Saili and Ryan Crotty have made a solitary appearance and Tom Taylor a brace.

Meanwhile a cluster of experienced players - Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Read, Messam, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Tony Woodcock and apprentice loosie Ardie Savea will fly to Paris while Aaron Cruden will fly to Japan for a promotional obligation.

- NZ Herald

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