All Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have today announced the All Blacks team for their second match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup against Japan at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, on Friday September 16.
1. Tony Woodcock (77)
2. Keven Mealamu (86)
3. Owen Franks (25)
4. Brad Thorn (53)
5. Sam Whitelock (19)
6. Jerome Kaino (42)
7. Richie McCaw – captain (99)
8. Adam Thomson (22)
9. Andy Ellis (21)
10. Daniel Carter (84)
11. Richard Kahui (13)
12. Ma’a Nonu (61)
13. Conrad Smith (49)
14. Cory Jane (27)
15. Mils Muliaina (98)
16. Andrew Hore (56)
17. John Afoa (34)
18. Ali Williams (67)
19. Victor Vito (9)
20. Piri Weepu (50)
21. Colin Slade (6)
22. Sonny Bill Williams (8)
Number of Test caps in brackets
The team will again be captained by Richie McCaw, with the iconic player becoming the first All Black to play 100 Tests – a special and historic milestone for the All Blacks skipper.
All Blacks Coach Graham Henry has today saluted McCaw’s contribution to New Zealand rugby.
“Richie is a very special man. He provides inspiration to New Zealanders because of his total commitment to enhancing the reputation of New Zealand through the success of the All Blacks team.
“He is incredibly brave, skilful and a hugely intelligent player who has the total respect of his team through the many deeds and successes he has achieved on the rugby field, and his ability to lead from the front.
“On behalf of the All Blacks coaches, management and fellow players, I would like to congratulate him on being the first player in All Blacks history to achieve 100 Tests – a truly remarkable milestone.”
The changes from the All Blacks team that beat Tonga 41–10 in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup include the return of 98–Test fullback Mils Muliaina, while the other changes in the backs are at halfback, with Andy Ellis getting his first start of the Rugby World Cup, and Cory Jane has been named on the right wing.
In the forwards, flanker Adam Thomson has recovered from his elbow injury to take his place at number eight; hooker Keven Mealamu returns to the run–on XV; and Sam Whitelock replaces Ali Williams at lock. .
Henry said the All Blacks were under no illusions about how much of a challenge Japan would be, after watching their effort against France in their opening match.
“There is no doubt that they are a very good team and well coached by John Kirwan and Mick Byrne. They are physical at the breakdown, play the game at speed and will be a real threat if we let them play like that so we will have to be on top of our game.”
Meanwhile, it will also be a special milestone this weekend for one of the team’s other leaders, Conrad Smith, with the centre playing in his 50th Test. As well, Daniel Carter and England’s Jonny Wilkinson will resume their on-going duel to be the world’s leading Test point scorer. Carter scored nine points against Tonga, increasing his lead over Wilkinson, who managed eight points against Argentina. Carter is now on 1238 points with Wilkinson 12 points back on 1226.
The All Blacks have played Japan just once in a Test, at the Rugby World Cup in 1995, with two non–Test matches also played in 1987.