New Zealand captain Richie McCaw and full-back Mils Muliaina, the All Blacks’ two most-experienced players, will miss tomorrow’s Rugby World Cup match against Japan because of injuries.
McCaw, who was due to become the first New Zealander to play 100 Test matches, suffered a minor calf strain in his left leg in a training session yesterday, while Muliaina had a tight right hamstring, the New Zealand Rugby Union said. Full-back Israel Dagg also suffered a right abdominal strain.
McCaw and Muliaina, who has played 98 Tests, join All Blacks playmaker Dan Carter in being withdrawn from the Japan game as tournament favorite New Zealand seeks its second win in Pool A after opening the 20-nation World Cup by beating Tonga.
“It was a bad day at the office as far as injuries are concerned but the good news is that all the injuries are not serious,” All Blacks team doctor Deb Robinson said in an e-mailed statement. “There would be risk of further injury to these players if we let them play.”
The injuries forced a reshuffle of the 22-man squad to take on the 13th-ranked Japanese in Hamilton. The team will now be captained by hooker Keven Mealamu.
Isaia Toeava will start at full-back, Adam Thomson shifts to openside flanker and Victor Vito comes off the replacements’ bench to start at No. 8. Second-rower Anthony Boric takes Vito’s spot on the bench.
“Injuries are something that we all have to deal with and it’s great that we have versatility in the squad,” All Blacks coach Graham Henry said.
Carter was yesterday withdrawn from the team because of a stiff back and will be replaced by Colin Slade at fly-half.
REVISED ALL BLACKS TEAM: Isaia Toeava, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Victor Vito, Adam Thomson, Jerome Kaino, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, John Afoa, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams.