All Blacks name unchanged XV for Test - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

All Blacks name unchanged XV for Test

By Laine Clark 09/09/2008 05:41:49 PM Comments (0)

When Richie McCaw capped a remarkable game with a match-saving cover tackle on try-bound Wallaby Mark Gerrard in 2006, All Blacks coach Graham Henry claimed his skipper "couldn't play any better".

He was wrong.

In the lead-up to Saturday night's Tri-Nations decider at Suncorp Stadium, Henry said McCaw had raised the bar again since returning from an ankle injury.

And unfortunately for the Wallabies, Brisbane seems to bring the best out of McCaw.

Yep, it was at Brisbane where McCaw chased down Wallabies flyer Gerrard and broke Australian hearts.

His heroics ensured a 13-9 Tri-Nations win for the Kiwis, abruptly ending the Wallabies' 10-year unbeaten run in the Queensland capital.

Henry was gushing after that game - but it had nothing on the coach's praise of the 27-year-old openside flanker leading into their weekend blockbuster.

"He came in with no rugby for a month, and playing against the Australians at Auckland I thought he was pretty special," Henry said of McCaw's comeback.

"And he upped that performance in Cape Town, where I thought he probably played his best game as an All Black.

"He might debate that. But I thought he was outstanding in Cape Town. His leadership was equal to his playing ability."

Mere mortals would need to blow the rust off after being out of rugby for more than a month with an ankle injury.

Somehow McCaw came back better than ever.

He returned against Australia to inspire a 39-10 win on August 2 then backed up to spark New Zealand's 19-0 win over the world champion Springboks a fortnight later - in South Africa no less.

No wonder the All Blacks were relieved to hear McCaw had overcome a rib complaint that forced him to miss last week's record 101-14 romp over Samoa.

McCaw has trained strongly in Brisbane, ensuring he won't miss the All Blacks' biggest Test of the year.

No prizes for guessing who a young All Blacks will look to for inspiration in their winner-takes-all showdown.

"His influence on this group is colossal," Henry said.

Stats back Henry up - New Zealand have lost just seven out of 64 Tests with McCaw on board, an amazing 89 per cent winning percentage.

Not that the Kiwis don't know how to get lucky in BrisVegas - they have an awesome 13-2-2 record in the Queensland capital.

McCaw returns with lock Brad Thorn (hamstring) and wing Sitiveni Sivivatu (ankle) after being rested from the Samoa thumping, ensuring the same starting XV that beat Australia and South Africa will run out on Suncorp Stadium.

Winger Anthony Tuitavake (facial fracture) was ruled out while flanker Adam Thomson and lock Anthony Boric both dropped to the reserves after starting against Samoa.

Henry is sweating on reserve prop John Afoa (shoulder) who has been bracketed with Neemia Tialata on the bench.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2024 AAP

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