Mealamu set to notch century of Test caps
October 18, 2012
Keven Mealamu warms up for what will be his 100th appearance for the All Blacks on Saturday © Getty Images
New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu is set to join the Test centurions club when he lines up against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.
The 33-year-old will become the 22nd player to reach the milestone and the third All Black following current captain Richie McCaw and former fullback Mils Muliaina.
Mealamu, who made his All Blacks debut in 2002, made his 93rd Test start as a hooker and achieved his 80th victory in the first clash against Australia this year - setting records by a hooker in international rugby. He is also New Zealand's most capped Super Rugby player with 143 appearances and is the Blues' most capped player with 132.
He returns to the starting line-up at the expense of Andrew Hore in one of two changes to the side that started the 32-16 win over South Africa in the final round of the Rugby Championship. The other is the promotion of prop Charlie Faumuina who gets his first start in his fourth Test ahead of Owen Franks who drops to the bench like Hore.
Head coach Steve Hansen heaped praise on Mealamu ahead of his landmark appearance. "He is a key leader in the team and one of the true gentlemen of New Zealand rugby," Hansen said. "I know his family are extremely proud of him and so is his All Blacks family."
Elsewhere on the bench, Victor Vito is drafted in for Adam Thomson while Ben Smith replaces Tamati Ellison as the outside back cover.
New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear; Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Liam Messam, Richie McCaw (c), Kieran Read
Replacements: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.