Beauden Barrett replaces Dan Carter as New Zealand face confident Wales

Coach Steve Hansen pays tribute to Richie McCaw, who plays 100th Test as captain

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw: “We’re all very proud of Richie,” says coach Steve Hansen. “He’s a straight up-and-downbloke who’s probably our greatest rugby player ever.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw: “We’re all very proud of Richie,” says coach Steve Hansen. “He’s a straight up-and-downbloke who’s probably our greatest rugby player ever.” Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho.

 
Steve HansenNew Zealand

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Since Hansen moved up a rung to become the All Blacks’ head coach after the 2011 World Cup, they have only lost two Tests, and the last time they failed to beat Wales was in 1953. When asked at the announcement of the New Zealand team for the Millennium Stadium encounter, when Richie McCaw will lead the side for a record 100th time, why anyone would think his team was there for the taking, he threatened to break into a smile.

“I do not believe they think that,” he replied. “They probably feel they have to say it. Sometimes we find our inner belief by talking. Reading all the newspaper clippings, Wales obviously have a lot of self-belief. Saturday will show whether we are there for the taking but what makes this team believe in itself is what it has done.

“We expect Wales to come out and chuck everything at us, but we know that we are a good side and that if we prepare well, we have a decent chance of getting the job done.”

After changing all but two of the side that started against England for last weekend’s match against Scotland, Hansen has restored the bulk of the lineup who played at Twickenham: Ben Smith moves from wing to full-back, Charles Piutau fills his place out wide and Beauden Barrett gets his chance at outhalf after Aaron Cruden and then Dan Carter wore the number 10 jersey this month.

Century of Tests as captain

“We’re all very proud of Richie,” said Hansen. “He’s a straight up-and-downbloke who’s probably our greatest rugby player ever. It’s nice to be here to share that moment with him, but he would be the first to tell you that this game is not about him but the team playing well so we can walk of the field having got the win.

“I first saw him play in a school game at a tournament in Christchurch. He was about 17. He wasn’t a natural athlete, he had four feet and couldn’t catch a cold. What he had was a massive capacity to learn and he always wanted to be better.

“He was very, very good over the ball. He had a massive ticker and he wouldn’t mind getting dealt to because he would keep coming back. You could run him over with a tractor and he would still get up and have another go.”

Desire to improve

All Blacks second row Sam Whitelock said emphasis this week was being placed on the set pieces. “Wales are a good side and the set pieces are crucial.” Guardian Service

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