Richie McCaw will celebrate his 100th Test as captain with a victory against Wales in Cardiff, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
It was at the Millennium Stadium 10 years ago that McCaw became the All Blacks' 60th Test captain, aged 23. And it will be at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday that he becomes the first leader to reach the three-figure mark.
Incredibly, the All Blacks have won 87 of the matches in which McCaw has been captain, with just 10 defeats and two draws. During that time he has lifted the World Cup once, the Tri-Nations or Rugby Championship trophy eight times and the Bledisloe Cup on 10 occasions.
McCaw has been on the winning side in all 10 of his appearances against Wales, and that won't change on Saturday. Wales have lost 25 consecutive matches against New Zealand since their last success in 1953, and under coach Warren Gatland have won just one match out of 26 against the big three southern hemisphere sides. It's a horrendous record for a team that always talks a big game off the field but keeps falling short on it.
After an unconvincing 24-16 win against Scotland, the All Blacks have recalled their big guns for the Test in Cardiff, with Beauden Barrett starting at flyhalf ahead of Dan Carter, who falls out of the match 23 following a rusty performance at Murrayfield. Coach Steve Hansen admitted Carter would have been on the bench instead of Colin Slade had he performed better against Scotland, but said the 32-year-old now needed to go play Super Rugby, and lots of it.
For Barrett, who will wear the No 10 jersey for the fifth time this year, it is another opportunity to show Hansen that he should be ahead of Aaron Cruden (who started against the USA and England) in the pecking order.
Gatland has made just one change to the Wales starting XV that lost 33-28 to the Wallabies two weeks ago, with Jonathan Davies coming in at outside centre.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: All Blacks 26, Wales 3
In Wales: All Blacks 15, Wales 3
LAST FIVE RESULTS
2012: All Blacks won 33-10 (Cardiff)
2010: All Blacks won 37-25 (Cardiff)
2010: All Blacks won 29-10 (Hamilton)
2010: All Blacks won 42-9 (Dunedin)
2009: All Blacks won 19-12 (Cardiff)
McCAW'S STATS THAT MATTER
99 – The number of times McCaw has captained the All Blacks in Tests, out of 136
24 – The number of Test caps he earned before captaining them for the first time, against Wales in Cardiff in 2004, aged 23
87 – The number of Tests McCaw has won as captain, with just 10 losses and two draws
19 – The number of Test tries he's scored as captain, out of 25
Wales – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paul James.
Subs: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Rhodri Jones, 19 Luke Charteris, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 James Hook, 23 Liam Williams.
All Blacks – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Charles Piutau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Subs: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Liam Messam, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Colin Slade, 23 Ryan Crotty.
Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images