November 16, 2012
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Read to lead revamped All Blacks in Italy Test

Kieran Read will captain the All Blacks for the first time in Saturday's Test against Italy after coach Steve Hansen opted to rest World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw in a radically revamped team.

With Hansen intent on giving all his 32-man squad a run in the opening two Tests of New Zealand's European tour, Julian Savea was the only player from the starting 15 that beat Scotland 51-22 last week retained in the run-on side.

McCaw was left out of the match-day squad entirely, handing over the captain's armband to Read in the loose forward's 46th Test, while star pivot Dan Carter was named on the bench in favour of understudy Aaron Cruden.

Hansen described Read, 27, as "a genuine leader" and pointed out the overhauled team was still vastly experienced, even without McCaw and Carter, boasting a combined 534 Test caps in the starting line-up and 219 on the bench.

Liam Messam was called in as blindside flanker to replace Adam Thomson, who was ruled out after receiving a one-match ban for stamping on the head of Scotland loose forward Alasdair Strokosch at Murrayfield.

Veteran lock Ali Williams, keen to re-establish his credentials after a forgettable Super 15 season with the Auckland Blues, comes into the second row, alongside Brodie Retallick, who replaces Sam Whitelock.

With the experimental centres pairing of Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith that faced Scotland unavailable due to injuries, Hansen turned to the experienced combination of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith.

Injury also forced the bruised Israel Dagg into the reserves, opening the way for Beauden Barrett to earn his fourth cap.

Hansen said he was expecting a torrid Test against Italy in front of a sold-out crowd at Rome's Stadio Olimpico, particularly in the forwards, and he wanted an improved performance from the Scotland Test.

"The team last week put a stake in the ground and while the performance was nowhere near perfect, there was some quality rugby played," he said.

"There is now an opportunity for this group to build on that."

New Zealand have won all 11 of their previous meetings with Italy, who struggled to an unconvincing 28-23 victory against Tonga last Saturday.

The All Blacks are undefeated in 18 games and have not lost a Test on a Northern Hemisphere tour since 2002, when England defeated them 31-28.

After Saturday's Test, they play Wales on November 24 and England on December 1.

New Zealand 15-1

Beauden Barrett; Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Brodie Retallick, Ali Williams; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock.

Replacements:
Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Cory Jane.

AFP
 

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