New Zealand v Japan, Rugby World Cup 2011, September 16
McCaw ruled out of Japan clash
September 14, 2011
Richie McCaw had been set to become his country's first centurion © Getty Images
Richie McCaw's hopes of becoming a Test centurion in New Zealand's clash with Japan in Hamilton on Friday have been dashed by injury.
The All Blacks captain had been set to earn his 100th cap in the game against the Cherry Blossoms but has been forced to withdraw after suffering a minor calf strain in his left leg. Consequently, Keven Mealamu will lead the side in McCaw's absence, while Adam Thomson will switch to openside flanker, with Victor Vito slotting in at No.8. Vito's promotion to to the starting line-up sees lock Anthony Boric added to the replacements.
New Zealand head coach Graham Henry has also been forced into another change, with Mils Muliaina having been sidelined with a tight hamstring. Israel Dagg, who scored two tries in the All Blacks' tournament opener against Tonga last Friday, would have been the obvious choice to slot back in at fullback but he, too, is now unavailable because of a right abdominal strain. Consequently, Isaia Toeava will wear the No.15 jersey against the Japanese.
"It's disappointing to have the players unavailable, especially Richie and Mils who were both looking forward to playing against Japan," Henry said. "But injuries are something that we all have to deal with and it's great that we have versatility in the squad so Isaia is able to slot in at fullback."
Thursday's withdrawals mean that Henry has, in total, had to replace four players from his original starting line-up as Dan Carter pulled out just hours after being selected at fly-half on account of a back injury, resulting in a start for Colin Slade at fly-half.
However, All Blacks team doctor Deb Robinson revealed that that not one of the injuries suffered by Carter, McCaw, Muliaina and Dagg are likely to jeopardise their availability for next weekend's crucial clash with France.
"It was a bad day at the office as far as injuries are concerned but the good news is that all the injuries are not serious," she said. "There would be risk of further injury to these players if we let them play so we have withdrawn them.
"We will now concentrate on their rehabilitation with the aim of getting them ready to resume training next week to prepare for the France Test."
Revised New Zealand team: Isaia Toeava; Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui; Colin Slade, Andy Ellis; Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu (capt), Owen Franks; Brad Thorn, Sam Whitelock; Jerome Kaino, Adam Thomson, Victory Vito.
Replacements: Andrew Hore, John Afoa, Ali Williams, Anthony Boric, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Sonny Bill Williams.
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