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New Zealand v Australia, Rugby World Cup, October 16
McCaw fit for Wallabies showdown
ESPNscrum Staff
October 13, 2011
All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw leads the team out in his 100th cap, New Zealand v France, Rugby World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, September 24, 2011
McCaw has been passed fit for Sunday's clash at Eden Park © Getty Images
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New Zealand captain Richie McCaw will lead his side into their Rugby World Cup semi-final clash with Australia at Eden Park on Sunday.

The openside flanker has been under an injury cloud for the duration of the tournament with a troublesome right foot limiting his input but he has been declared fit for the Wallabies showdown. The All Blacks have made three changes to the side that beat Argentina 33-10 in last weekend's quarter-finals including the promotion of fly-half Aaron Cruden into the starting line-up in the place of the injured Colin Slade.

Elsewhere, Israel Dagg returns to the fullback berth as a result of a tournament-ending injury for Mils Muliaina and Richard Kahui will start on the left wing with Sonny Bill Williams dropping to the bench. Other changes among the replacements see Andy Ellis get the back-up scrum-half spot, with recent squad addition Stephen Donald providing cover for Cruden.

"The team was very happy with the way they played in the quarter-final win over Argentina," commented head coach Graham Henry. "It was a really intense battle and that's what we needed heading into this weekend's match. We have been building slowly this week to be ready for Sunday night when we know there will need to be a further lift in intensity and physicality. It's a semi-final in the Rugby World Cup and the team is excited by the challenge that lies ahead.

"I think there's a quiet focus there, a quiet determination. The guys have been a bit quieter than normal, probably because it's such a huge game. It's probably the biggest game that these guys have played in 10 years."

New Zealand have played Australia twice at the Rugby World Cup, in the 1991 and 2003 semi-finals with the Wallabies winning both semi-final clashes. The All Blacks have played Australia 22 times at Eden Park, with New Zealand victorious on 18 occasions, and Australia claiming their last success at the ground in 1986.

More to follow...

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui; Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Samuel Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read

Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams

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