All Blacks Keven Mealamu will play his 100th Test this weekend, with the hooker named in the starting line up to face the Wallabies this Saturday night at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
The 33-year-old, who has captained the All Blacks in three Tests, is just the third All Black to reach the distinguished milestone, following captain Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina who played their 100th Tests during last year's Rugby World Cup.
All Blacks Head coach Steve Hansen says: "On behalf of the All Blacks players and management, I want to congratulate Keven on reaching this very special milestone. '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."
Hansen adds that playing the Wallabies in Brisbane adds another challenge with the venue being a “fortress” for the home side.
As well as Mealamu, the starting XV features just one other change from that which started the last Test of the Rugby Championship against South Africa 12 days ago, with prop Charlie Faumuina getting his first Test start, coming in for Owen Franks who moves to the bench.
Other changes on the bench from the South Africa Test see Andrew Hore at reserve hooker; Victor Vito comes in for Adam Thomson as loose forward cover; while Ben Smith replaces Tamati Ellison in the outside back reserve jersey.
Meanwhile, the All Blacks will take a travelling squad of 26 to Brisbane for the Test, with Ellison, Julian Savea, Ben Franks and Sam Cane joining the match-day 22. Thomson and prop Wyatt Crockett will stay in New Zealand and will be available to play for their respective ITM Cup sides in the competition semifinals this weekend.
All Blacks: 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 Keven Mealamu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 6 Liam Messam, 7 Richie McCaw – captain, 8 Kieran Read, 9 Aaron Smith, 10 Daniel Carter, 11 Hosea Gear, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 13 Conrad Smith, 14 Cory Jane, 15 Israel Dagg.
Reserves: 16 Andrew Hore. 17 Owen Franks, 18 Luke Romano,19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
source: newshub archive