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Mccaw To Lead Fresh-Faced All Blacks Against Baa Baas

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

London, Dec 2 NZPA - Richie McCaw will back up for a third straight week to captain an otherwise second-string All Blacks as they look to complete an unbeaten rugby tour against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday (NZT).

McCaw and Cory Jane, who shifts from wing to fullback, were the only survivors from the starting lineup who beat France 39-12 in Marseille last weekend.

The only players yet to start a match on this tour -- first five-eighth Stephen Donald and prop John Afoa -- were also rewarded with run-on spots against a powerful Barbarians side.

Three tour debutants earned starting berths -- wingers Zac Guildford and Ben Smith and centre Tamati Ellison -- while the fourth newcomer, Mike Delany, will get time off the bench.

It was expected McCaw, last week named the International Rugby Board's player of the year for a second time, would sit out the tour finale along with the other frontliners who produced the side's best performance of the year in Marseille.

But coach Graham Henry clearly thought McCaw's influence was required against the Nick Mallett-coached Barbarians who included Springboks stars Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana, Wallabies Matt Giteau, Rocky Elsom and George Smith, and 60-test All Blacks winger Joe Rokocoko.

Guildford will likely mark Rokocoko, with Smith facing off against Habana.

Said assistant coach Wayne Smith: "That's my recommendation to the players, to build up like it's a test match because we're playing a world-class team, some of the best players in the world and that's a great opportunity to show that you've got it."

Those given a rest for the final week were Dan Carter, Mils Muliaina, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Tom Donnelly, Tony Woodcock and Owen Franks.

While the match, which doesn't have test status, is undoubtedly a lucrative money-making venture for the New Zealand Rugby Union at the end of a marathon season, there is plenty at stake for several players.

The likes of Donald, halfback Brendon Leonard, flanker Liam Messam and lock Jason Eaton haven't really nailed their test opportunities in 2009 and will want to keep their names fresh in the coaches' minds heading into next year's Super 14.

"One of the stated objectives of the tour was to put yourself in line for selection for the future, so this is a big game from that perspective," Smith said.

Depending on the rapidly chilling London weather, the All Blacks would try to play an open, running style without being reckless, Smith said.

"It's not a test match. it's a Barbarians game and both teams have a responsibility to honour that and play an attacking game.

"But you don't want to lose your structure to the point it becomes chaotic."

The lineout will be an area of interest against Matfield who caused the All Blacks' throws plenty of grief during the Springboks' three Tri-Nations victories.

Matfield admitted today it would be more difficult to disrupt the All Blacks without the normal detailed pre-test analysis, but he would still covet any win over their old foes.

Smith said it was a big goal of the week to maintain the high lineout standards.

"I think there'll be a few nervous people around that. Our lineout's been absolutely superb, as good as anything in the world, but as Graham keeps saying we're not playing South Africa. I'm sure there's some effort that will be put in there."

The All Blacks have their first training of the week overnight (NZT), about the same time the Barbarians confirm their starting lineup.

New Zealand: Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Tamati Ellison, Luke McAlister, Zac Guildford, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Rodney So'oialo, Richie McCaw (captain), Liam Messam, Anthony Boric, Jason Eaton, John Afoa, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Andrew Hore, Neemia Tialata, Adam Thomson, Tanerau Latimer, Jimmy Cowan, Mike Delany, Sitiveni Sivivatu.


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