Rugby Championship

McCaw set to equal Test record

2015-08-06 13:19
Richie McCaw (Gallo Images)

Wellington - New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will have a big stage to equal the mark as the world's most-capped rugby player: the Rugby Championship decider against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

The 34-year-old McCaw will be appearing in his 141st Test for New Zealand, matching the record for most caps set by Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll. In his 140 Tests to date, McCaw has only lost 14 matches.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder will also make his debut in a New Zealand line-up that will be close to full strength as head coach Steve Hansen prepares his squad for the World Cup starting next month.

The starting line-up will feature players with a total of 868 Test caps, with another 183 on the bench.

Australia, meanwhile, has named flanks David Pocock and Michael Hooper to start a Test together for the first time in their careers - Hooper on the openside flank and Pocock at No 8.

New Zealand and Australia are both unbeaten in this season's Rugby Championship and are tied on nine points apiece. Saturday's match will decide the winner of the shortened Rugby Championship and will also be the first leg of a two-match series for the Bledisloe Cup between the two Southern hemisphere rivals, with the return scheduled for a week later in Auckland.

"The Bledisloe Cup is an important trophy for New Zealand rugby and for this team, and Australia is one of our oldest opponents," Hansen said.

"We are well aware that they have made improvements and that their coach (Michael) Cheika wants them to be more physical and more consistent."

For the Wallabies, Matt Giteau will return from injury to start at inside center in his 94th Test and his first against New Zealand since 2011 when he left Australia to play in France. He joins flyhalf Bernard Foley and centre Tevita Kuridrani in the middle of the Wallabies backline, while Drew Mitchell will start a Test for the first time this season on the left wing.

Prop Scott Sio will make his starting debut for the Wallabies after winning caps off the bench against South Africa and Argentina, and Dean Mumm will start at lock, forcing youngster Will Skelton to the reserves bench.

"Australian Rugby is very fortunate to have some quality flanks competing for the number seven jumper," head coach Michael Cheika said.

"Both players have been in outstanding form for club and country this season and have shown their class in sharing the spot in the first two matches."

Milner-Skudder will have the opportunity to make his case for a World Cup spot for the All Blacks, starting on the right wing.

In other changes to the New Zealand line-up, Julian Savea returns on the left wing for his first Test of the year, Ben Smith replaces Israel Dagg at fullback, and Sonny Bill Williams will start at inside centre in place of Ma'a Nonu, who has a shoulder injury.

Dan Carter will start at flyhalf in his 105th Test. The leading points scorer in Test rugby, Carter needs just nine points to reach the milestone of 1 500.

For the forwards, Jerome Kaino returns on the blindside flank and Luke Romano will start at lock in place of Sam Whitelock. Along with Whitelock, the bench also features the return of prop Nepo Laulala and flank Sam Cane.



15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 David Pocock, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 James Horwill, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Stephen Moore, (captain), 1 Scott Sio

Substitutes: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 James Slipper, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Will Skelton, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nic White, 22 Matt Toomua, 23 Kurtley Beale

New Zealand:

15 Ben Smith, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Luke Romano, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Substitutes: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Ben Franks , 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Sam Cane, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Malakai Fekitoa


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