NZ's Mealamu to join 100s club
Brisbane - Keven Mealamu will become the third New Zealand player to reach 100 Test caps when the world champion All Blacks play Australia in the third and final Bledisloe Cup Test here on Saturday.
The 33-year-old hooker joins captain Richie McCaw and former fullback Mils Muliaina as having achieved the milestone. McCaw and Muliaina reached the mark at last year's rugby World Cup.
"I want to congratulate Keven on reaching this very special milestone," All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said in a statement.
"'Kevvy is a hugely respected man, not only in the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby but also in his wider community; he is a key leader in the team and one of the true gentlemen of New Zealand rugby.
"I know his family are extremely proud of him and so is his All Blacks family."
Mealamu's inclusion in the starting side was one of two changes to the lineup that started the All Blacks's last Test, a 32-16 victory over the Springboks in Soweto which ensured they finished the Rugby Championship unbeaten.
Andrew Hore will drop to the bench, along with tighthead prop Owen Franks, with rookie Charlie Faumuina getting his first Test start at Lang Park.
Hansen made just two other changes to his matchday 22 with Victor Vito replacing Adam Thomson on the bench as cover for the loose forwards while Ben Smith replaces Tamati Ellison as the outside backs replacement.
The All Blacks, who have already retained the Bledisloe Cup, are chasing their 17th successive Test victory at Lang Park. If they win they will equal the record of successive wins for top tier rugby nations.
The world record of 18 is held by Lithuania.
Hansen's side demolished Australia in their two previous encounters this season and stepped up their standard of play in their final two Rugby Championship matches with a 54-15 victory over Argentina in La Plata and the win over the Springboks.
The Wallabies have been blighted with injuries this season, though Hansen was not taking any chances given Robbie Deans's men were the last side to beat the All Blacks, at Lang Park less than two weeks before the rugby World Cup began.
"Playing Australia in Brisbane represents another great challenge for the team and one which we are looking forward to.
"We have prepared well so far for the Test and, as always, the challenge for the team is not only the opposition, but also meeting our own expectations when it comes to the standard of our performance.
"Australia sees (Lang Park) as their fortress which only enhances the challenge from our point of view."
15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Daniel Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Charlie Faumuina, 2-Keven Mealamu, 1-Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16-Andrew Hore, 17-Owen Franks, 18-Luke Romano, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Ben Smith