New Zealand hooker Keven Mealamu will become the third All Black to play 100 Tests in this weekend’s Bledisloe Cup rugby finale against Australia, which had to make its second injury-enforced change for the match.
Mealamu, whose inclusion in the starting lineup was one of two changes from the team that won in South Africa 12 days ago, follows captain Richie McCaw and former full-back Mils Muliaina in playing a century of matches for New Zealand. Prop Charlie Faumuina was named for his first start in place of Owen Franks.
The All Blacks’ 32-16 victory in Soweto secured a six-game sweep of the southern hemisphere’s inaugural Rugby Championship and extended their winning streak to 16 Tests. They last lost at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium 14 months ago in the deciding game of the final Tri-Nations tournament.
New Zealand’s winning run is one short of the top-tier record of 17 straight Test victories it shares with South Africa. Lithuania holds the outright record of 18 wins in a row, according to the International Rugby Board.
Australia prop Ben Alexander was today ruled out of the match because of a wrist injury and will be replaced in the starting lineup by James Slipper, the Wallabies said. Sekope Kepu was called up to the reserves’ bench.
Alexander’s withdrawal is the second change to the 22-man squad named two days ago. Replacement hooker Saia Fainga’a withdrew after breaking a bone in his hand in training.
Australia was already missing players including lock and regular captain James Horwill, scrum-half Will Genia, openside flanker David Pocock, hooker Stephen Moore and backs James O’Connor and Berrick Barnes.
NEW ZEALAND: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Hosea Hear, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Samuel Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith.
AUSTRALIA: Mike Harris, Nick Cummins, Ben Tapuai, Pat McCabe, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Higginbotham, Nathan Sharpe (captain), Sitaleki Timani, James Slipper, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson.
Replacements: James Hanson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Dave Dennis, Liam Gill, Brett Sheehan, Drew Mitchell.