Keven Mealamu to start for 100th milestone

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 09:00 18/10/2012
Keven Mealamu
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CENTURION: All Blacks' hooker Keven Mealamu will win his 100th test cap against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday.

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Keven Mealamu has been spared any potential anxiety attacks by being named to start his 100th test on Saturday night.

Rather than make the hooker sit on the bench and wait for the boss's signal to replace Andrew Hore, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has appropriately awarded Mealamu the No 2 jersey for the dead rubber against the Wallabies at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium.

Inserting the controversial R-word - rotation - into reports is never appreciated by Hansen but he will find few New Zealanders, if any, will have any truck with his decision to switch rakes for this test.

The popular Mealamu joins Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina as just the third man to mark a century of appearances for the All Blacks as they chase their 17th consecutive win.

Hansen has made just one other change from the side that swamped the Springboks 32-16 in Soweto on October 8; tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina comes in for his first start and Owen Franks moves to the bench.

This week Wallabies loose forward Scott Higginbotham tried to add some heat to the buildup by noting the Melbourne Rebels unexpectedly beat the Crusaders during the winter. It can be done again, said the Queenslander.

But even the most myopic Australian supporter would struggle to match his enthusiasm.

Of major concern for the Wallabies is the fact the All Blacks have several poignant reasons to flick the switch in Brisbane.

The New Zealanders will look at the scarred head of Mealamu to remind themselves why they must slather more misery on the Wallabies.

This is an addition to wanting to lighten a gloomy week for Hansen following the death of his father Des this week.

Since making his debut for the All Blacks against Wales in Cardiff in November 2002, Mealamu, now 33, has proved invaluable for his ability to operate either as a starter or an impact player and is a member of the side's leadership group.

"Kevvy is a hugely respected man, not only in the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby but also in his wider community," Hansen said.

"He is a key leader in the team and one of the true gentlemen of New Zealand rugby."

By re-jigging his bench Hansen has allowed loose forward Victor Vito to push out Adam Thomson and he will be available to play for Otago in tomorrow night's NPC championship semifinal against Tasman.

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Ben Smith replaces Tamati Ellison as cover for the outside backs.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Hosea Gear, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.

- Fairfax Media

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