Muliaina to lead All Blacks
Three new faces in 26-man New Zealand squad
Last Updated: 31/05/09 4:23pm
Muliaina: leadership role
Mils Muliaina has been appointed All Blacks captain for the home Tests against France and Italy in June.
"France will again be a difficult challenge for the All Blacks. They have picked their strongest squad available and history shows they are often very successful against the All Blacks."
Graham Henry Quotes of the week
The Waikato Chiefs full-back takes over from Richie McCaw, who is sidelined with a knee problem.
"Mils is in the leaders' group in the All Blacks," New Zealand coach Graham Henry said in a statement.
"He has done a fantastic job as captain of the Chiefs in the Super 14 and has a great deal of respect...amongst his peers."
Henry has named a 26-man squad for the three matches - a two-game series with France and one-off Test against Italy - including three uncapped players: Canterbury Crusaders duo Isaac Ross and Wyatt Crockett, and Chiefs flanker Tanerau Latimer.
Rodney So'oialo, who skippered the All Blacks last season in McCaw's absence, was left out due to a neck injury.
"Rodney has had an incredibly demanding Super 14 season, starting in 13 of the Hurricanes' matches this year and that follows several years of intense, top-level rugby," Henry explained.
"We are taking a proactive approach and giving him some time to recover and rehab."
Dan Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Anthony Boric, Andy Ellis, Corey Flynn and Scott Waldron were also not considered because of injuries.
New Zealand are scheduled to play France in Dunedin on June 13 and in Wellington on June 20. They then move on to Christchurch to face Italy on June 27.
"France will again be a difficult challenge for the All Blacks," Henry admitted.
"They have picked their strongest squad available and history shows they are often very successful against the All Blacks.
"Italy will bring a different challenge. They will be well coached by the very experienced South African coach Nick Mallett and will bring a lot of physicality and scrummaging power to the contest."
Squad: M Muliaina (capt), C Jane, J Rokocoko, R Wulf, R Kahui, C Smith, I Toeava, M Nonu, S Donald, P Weepu, J Cowan, B Leonard, J Kaino, T Latimer, A Thomson, L Messam, K Read, B Thorn, A Williams, I Ross, J Afoa, N Tialata, T Woodcock, W Crockett, A Hore, K Mealamu