Veteran lock Sam Whitelock is set to become the All Blacks’ most capped international player
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Lock Sam Whitelock is set to become New Zealand’s most-capped player after being named among the replacements for the Rugby World Cup clash with Italy.
The second row will surpass double World Cup-winning skipper Richie McCaw if he comes off the bench to win a 149th cap in Lyon.
Whitelock, who made his debut in 2010, would then become the second most-capped Test rugby player in history, with only Wales and British & Irish Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones – who won 171 international caps – ahead of him on the all-time list.
The 34-year-old will join Pau at the conclusion of the tournament.
“I don’t think it takes the romance out of it [that Whitelock is on the bench],” said Ian Foster, New Zealand’s head coach. “This is a credit to Sam, every game he is achieving something new at the moment.
“He equalled a record last week, he’s going to beat it this week. He’s got 150 (caps) coming up and then he’s got the most capped All Black in World Cups. Every day is a bit of a statement of something he’s achieving.
“We want to honour that achievement because he’s earned that but I feel like as a team, we talked a lot about it last week, before the Namibia game, we respect that but we will do all our celebration of that achievement after this game. Right now what the team needs to achieve is bigger than the individual.”
Elsewhere, Foster has been boosted by the return of Shannon Frizell and Jordie Barrett to his starting side as the All Blacks seek to secure a quarter-final spot.
A largely second-string New Zealand side bounced back from the opening defeat to hosts France by thrashing Namibia but now face their toughest subsequent pool fixture.
Shannon Frizell has returned from injury to start in the back row
Frizell returns from injury on the blindside, though regular captain Sam Cane is only on the bench after being a late withdrawal from the opening fixture with his own injury.
Centre Jordie plays at inside centre and is the youngest of the three Barrett brothers set to start at OL Stadium.
Italy are high on confidence after back-to-back bonus point wins against Namibia and Uruguay.
Coach Kieran Crowley again utilises two playmakers in Paolo Garbisi and Tommaso Allan, who return to fly half and full back having been paired at 10 and 12 in the Uruguay win last week.
Dino Lamb, a former England youth international, is preferred to Niccolo Cannone at lock.
“History means nothing really,” Foster said of Italy, who have never beaten the All Blacks. “If you look at their recent form, they’re playing well.
“That’s the Italy we expect to turn up and we’ve got to make sure that we’re really clear on that. They’ve clearly decided to take risks a little bit and it’s worked for them.”
New Zealand team: 15. Beauden Barrett; 14. Will Jordan, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. Jordie Barrett, 11. Mark Telea; 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Scott Barrett, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Dalton Papali’i, 8. Ardie Savea (captain)
Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Tamaiti Williams, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Sam Whitelock, 20. Sam Cane, 21. Cam Roigard, 22. Damian McKenzie, 23. Anton Leinart. Brown
Italy team: 15. Tommaso Allan; 14. Ange Capuozzo, 13. Juan Ignacio Brex, 12. Luca Morisi, 11. Montanna Ioane; 10. Paolo Garbisi, 9. Stephen Varney; 1. Danilo Fischetti, 2. Giacomo Nicotera, 3. Marco Riccioni, 4. Dino Lamb, 5. Federico Ruzza, 6. Sebastian Negri, 7. Michele Lamaro (captain), 8. Lorenzo Cannone
Replacements: 16. Hame Faiva, 17. Ivan Nemer, 18. Simone Ferrari, 19. Niccolo Cannone, 20. Manuel Zuliani, 21. Toa Halafihi, 22. Martin Page. Relo, 23. Paolo Odogwu.
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