Mealamu to become third New Zealand Centurion

Hooker Keven Mealamu will become the third New Zealander to win 100 Test caps after being named in the All Blacks starting line up team for this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup test against Australiain Brisbane.

Mealamu follows captain Richie McCaw and former fullback Mils Muliaina to the milestone. McCaw will play his 113th test on Saturday while Muliaina retired after playing his 100th test during last year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

Mealamu will share his moment with tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina, who will start a test for the first time in the only other change to the lineup that beat South Africa 32-16 to clinch the Rugby Championship.

Faumuina replaces Owen Franks while Mealamu takes the place of Andrew Hore. Franks and Hore have been included on the reserves bench.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen saluted Mealamu’s achievement.

“On behalf of the All Blacks players and management, I want to congratulate Keven on reaching this very special milestone, ” Hansen said.

“Kevvy is a hugely-respected man, not only in the All Blacks and New Zealand rugby but also in the wider community. He is a key leader in the team and one of the true gentlemen of New Zealand rugby. “

If New Zealand wins Saturday’s test it will equal the world record of 17 consecutive test wins by a tier one nation, achieved by South Africa in 1998. Rugby minnow Lithuania won 18-straight internationals but South Africa’s mark is recognized as the current world record among test-playing nations.

New Zealand has the chance to achieve the mark in an appropriate setting. Its last test loss was to Australia in Brisbane in August last year. Australia won that match 25-20 and has won 14 of its last 16 tests in Brisbane.

“Playing Australia in Brisbane represents another great challenge for the team and one which we are looking forward to, ” Hansen said.

“We have prepared well so far for the test and, as always, the challenge for the team is not only the opposition but also meeting our own expectations when it comes to the standard of our performance.

“Australia sees Suncorp Stadium (in Brisbane) as their fortress, which only enhances the challenge from our point of view. “

New Zealand will send a traveling squad of 26 to Brisbane on Thursday, with Tamati Ellison, Julian Savea, Ben Franks and Sam Cane joining the match 22. Hansen is likely to join the team in Australia later because of the death on Tuesday morning of his father, Des.

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.

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