Rome - Number eight Kieran Read will
captain the All Blacks for the first time against Italy on Saturday as
coach Steve Hansen continues his long-term planning for a successor to
The 27-year-old Read had been widely expected to be
given the captaincy for at least one match on the end-of-season tour as
Hansen had said he wanted every player in the 32-man squad to get game
time, which would allow giving McCaw a rest.
McCaw, 31, who led
the team in their 51-22 victory over Scotland last Sunday, has dropped
out of the squad altogether with Sam Cane to start at openside flank.
"We were happy with our performance last weekend against Scotland but
also knew there were areas for improvement ahead of the Italian test and
we have been working on getting that right this week," Hansen said in a
"The team last week put a stake in the ground, and
while the performance was nowhere near perfect, there was some quality
rugby played. There is now an opportunity for this group to build on
Hansen's wholesale changes to the side include naming regular flyhalf Beauden Barrett to start at fullback.
Barrett slotted into the position seamlessly last Sunday when he came
on as a substitute for the Israel Dagg, who was not considered for the
Italy match due to bruising he sustained after a heavy fall.
Utility back Ben Smith, who would have normally been expected to slot
into fullback, was also not considered after he suffered an injury to
his cheek while playing against Scotland.
His centre partner
Tamati Ellison was also not considered due to a toe injury so Hansen
re-instated veteran duo Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, while he picked
Hosea Gear and Julian Savea to start on the wings.
Wales coach also expected a tough confrontation from Italy's forwards so
shook up his pack, with regular first choice players Tony Woodcock and
Keven Mealamu returning to the front row with Charlie Faumuina starting
at tighthead prop.
"We are expecting another torrid test against the Italians in front of their passionate fans," Hansen added.
"They are renowned for their forward play so they will certainly be up
for the challenge and we will have to match that physicality."
Veteran lock Ali Williams also makes his first start in the test side
since last year's World Cup after he was used as a substitute during
tests against Ireland in June and then had to recover from knee surgery.
He joins Brodie Retallick in a new locking combination after Sam Whitelock and Luke Romanao started at Murrayfield on Sunday.
Blindside flank Liam Messam replaces Adam Thomson, who was suspended
for making contact with the head of Scotland's Alasdair Strokosch,
though Messam had been expected to start the match anyway, irrespective
of Thomson's ban. Teams:
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Ali Williams, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ben Franks, 19 Samuel Whitelock, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Daniel Carter, 23 Cory Jane