All Blacks near full strength for Scotland exam
November 11, 2010
Richie McCaw has been named in a stronger than expected All Blacks XI © Getty Images
All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and fullback Mils Muliaina are set to equal Sean Fitzpatrick's all-time record of 92 caps for New Zealand after being named to face Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Coach Graham Henry has bucked his recent trend of rotating fringe players into his team for the northern leg of his British and Irish tour by naming a near full-strength XV - including suspended hooker Keven Mealamu.
Mealamu has been bracketed with potential debutant Hika Elliot to start at No.2, pending an appeal on his four-week ban for headbutting England captain Lewis Moody at Twickenham last Saturday. Elliot will make his debut if Mealamu's appeal hearing, set for Friday, fails, while Andrew Hore is back from injury on the bench either way.
In other changes from the team that beat England 26-16, utility back Isaia Toeava replaces Joe Rokocoko on the right wing while in a midfield reshuffle to aid Sonny Bill Williams' introduction to international rugby he will play in his usual position of inside centre.
Conrad Smith is restored to outside centre - where Williams made his debut last weekend - so Ma'a Nonu drops to the bench.
Jimmy Cowan is recalled at scrum-half for Alby Mathewson while in the one confirmed change to the pack Liam Messam will start on the blindside flank in place of the rested Jerome Kaino.
New Zealand: M Muliaina (Waikato); I Toeava (Auckland), C Smith (Wellington), SB Williams (Canterbury), H Gear (Wellington); D Carter (Canterbury), J Cowan (Southland); T Woodcock (North Harbour), K Mealamu (Auckland) / H Elliot (Hawke's Bay), O Franks (Canterbury), B Thorn (Canterbury), S Whitelock (Canterbury), L Messam (Waikato), R McCaw (Canterbury, capt), K Read (Canterbury)
Replacements: A Hore (Taranaki), J Afoa (Auckland), A Boric (North Habour), D Braid (Auckland), A Ellis (Canterbury), S Donald (Waikato), M Nonu (Wellington)
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