Mealamu leads highly altered All Blacks against Scotland

All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will captain New Zealand for the first time against Scotland this Saturday at Murrayfield after coach Graham Henry unveiled a team showing 12 changes on Tuesday.


Regular captain Richie McCaw is now on the bench, as is star back and ace goalkicker Dan Carter, with only three survivors from the starting line-up that beat Australia 19-14 in last weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash in Hong Kong – full-back Isaia Toeava, outside-half Stephen Donald and lock Ali Willams retaining their places.


Mealamu, 29, who will be appearing in his 62nd Test this weekend, will become the 63rd All Blacks captain as he leads the team out for the opening leg of their Grand Slam tour of the British Isles.


“Keven is one of the key players in the All Blacks and a strong leader and we congratulate him on reaching this significant milestone,” said New Zealand coach Graham Henry.


Mealamu is back in the No 2 shirt following Andrew Hore’s tour-ending ankle injury in Hong Kong and leads the side in the absence of McCaw’s regular deputy Rodney So’oialo, who has been rested completely from this match.


In the backs, fit-again wing Joe Rokocoko is set to earn his first cap in over a year since the World Cup quarter-final defeat against France in Cardiff as he looks to bolster an impressive record of 43 tries from 48 Tests.


Former Wales boss Henry defended his selection on the grounds his team were playing Tests on five consecutive weekends, as well as a midweek fixture against Irish province Munster.


“This is a strong team with a mix of experienced players and new faces and we have picked the best team to win this Test match,” Henry said.


Three players are set to make their Test debuts – Southland front-row forward Jamie Mackintosh, Waikato No 8 Liam Messam and Canterbury loose forward Kieran Read.


All three captained their provincial teams this year.


In 26 meetings between the two countries dating back to 1905, New Zealand have won 24 with Scotland’s best results coming in the Murrayfield draws of 1964, the last pointless match in Test history, and 1983 when the sides were locked at 25-25 come full-time.


They last met during the 2007 World Cup when the All Blacks beat a largely second-string Scottish side 40-0 at Murrayfield.


“We will not be taking the Scottish team lightly,” Henry insisted despite his changes.

 

 “They will be playing with passion and determination in front of a vocal Murrayfield so we are expecting a physical encounter.”

 

New Zealand (15-1)

 

 Isaia Toeava; Anthony Tuitavake, Richard Kahui, Ma’a Nonu, Joe Rokocoko; Stephen Donald, Piri Weepu; Liam Messam, Adam Thomson, Kieran Read; Ali Williams, Anthony Boric; John Afoa, Keven Mealamu (capt), Jamie Mackintosh

Replacements: Corey Flynn, Neemia Tialata, Ross Filipo, Richie McCaw, Andy Ellis, Dan Carter, Cory Jane


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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