x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

New Zealand ready to make history with final Bledisloe encounter

Steve Hansen's side can join their 1969 counterparts with 17 consecutive wins by recording another victory over Australia on Saturday.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen

New Zealand will equal the most number of consecutive wins by a major Test playing nation if they can overcome Australia in the final Bledisloe Cup match of the season on Saturday.

Steve Hansen's side has pieced together 16 straight victories, and are one tie away from joining their 1969 counterparts and the 1998 South Africa team in the history books.

The record of 18 is held by European minnows Lithuania from 2008-2010 while playing other minor teams.

"Playing Australia in Brisbane represents another great challenge for the team and one which we are looking forward to," said Hansen

"We have prepared well so far for the Test and, as always, the challenge for the team is not only the opposition, but also meeting our own expectations when it comes to the standard of our performance.

"Australia sees (Lang Park) as their fortress which only enhances the challenge from our point of view."

Keven Mealamu will become the third New Zealand player to reach 100 test caps when he takes to the field, joining captain Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina in reaching the century.

"I know his family are extremely proud of him and so is his All Blacks family," said Hansen

Mealamu's inclusion in the starting side was one of two changes to the line-up that started the All Blacks's last test, a 32-16 victory over South Africa in Johannesburg which ensured they finished the Rugby Championship unbeaten.

Andrew Hore will drop to the bench, along with tight head prop Owen Franks, with rookie Charlie Faumuina getting his first test start at Lang Park.

New Zealand team to face Australia: 15-Israel Dagg, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma'a Nonu, 11-Hosea Gear, 10-Daniel Carter, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Kieran Read, 7-Richie McCaw (captain), 6-Liam Messam, 5-Sam Whitelock, 4-Brodie Retallick, 3-Charlie Faumuina, 2-Keven Mealamu, 1-Tony Woodcock
Replacements: 16-Andrew Hore, 17-Owen Franks, 18-Luke Romano, 19-Victor Vito, 20-Piri Weepu, 21-Aaron Cruden, 22-Ben Smith

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