Rugby Championship: Richie McCaw to captain New Zealand against Australia
Last Updated: August 17, 2013 11:03am
Richie McCaw has been named in the starting line-up by head coach Steve Hansen
Richie McCaw will captain New Zealand in Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against Australia.
The World Cup-winning skipper has only recently returned after a six-month sabbatical from rugby, playing 80 minutes of a lower level club match and making cameo appearances off the bench for Canterbury Crusaders.
McCaw was rested for the second half of a warm-up match last weekend, suggesting head coach Steve Hansen is confident he is up to the rigours of international rugby.
Hansen has named an experienced side for the Bledisloe Cup clash at Sydney's ANZ Stadium, with the All Blacks' most capped centre pairing of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith winning their 80th and 70th caps respectively.
Loosehead prop Tony Woodcock wins his 99th cap, with Aaron Cruden selected at fly-half in the absence of the injured Dan Carter.
Aaron Smith starts at scrum-half while uncapped centre Ryan Crotty is named among the replacements.
Hansen said: "There's huge excitement in the group as the Bledisloe Cup is a very important trophy for the All Blacks.
"With the changing of the guard in the Australian coaching group, it adds a little bit of the unexpected to the challenge. Therefore, we need to ready for anything they chuck at us.
"Whilst the expectations will be as high as they always are for the All Blacks to perform and win, I have a feeling there will also be huge expectations on the Australians because of the changes, and it will be interesting to see how their players and their new coaching team cope with this."
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Tony Woodcock, 2 Andrew Hore, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Luke Romano, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Steven Luatua, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 8 Kieran Read.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Ryan Crotty.