CARDIFF (Reuters) - Lock Sam Whitelock will captain New Zealand against Wales on Saturday, taking over from injured number eight Kieran Read, who has been replaced in the side by Whitelock’s brother Luke.
The influential Read has a hip flexor problem that has troubled him all week and was not able to take his place in the side, despite All Black coach Steve Hansen delaying the naming of his side to give him extra opportunity to prove his fitness.
“Whilst it’s disappointing to not have ‘Reado’ available, it’s a great opportunity to further grow the leadership of the team and, in this case, Sam Whitelock gets the opportunity to captain the side,” Hansen said in a media release from New Zealand Rugby.
“With his brother Luke captaining the All Blacks against the French XV, it will create a unique All Blacks family history, and one which their family can be proud of.”
The Whitelock brothers join Harry and Marcus Nicholls from the 1920s as the only set of siblings to have captained the All Blacks.
There will also be another set of brothers in the match-day squad with Beauden Barrett starting at fly half and his sibling Luke, a lock, among the replacements.
In other changes from the team that beat Scotland 22-17 last weekend, Liam Squire comes in at flank for Vaea Fifita, while Patrick Tuipulotu takes over at lock in the place of Luke Romano.
”There’s been a real energy and buzz in the team this week as we prepare for the test against Wales,” Hansen said. “The group has worked hard on its preparation, we’ve asked them to go bone deep and they’re looking to deliver a performance we can all be proud of.”
The All Blacks are on a 29-game winning streak against the Welsh, having not been beaten by their opponents since 1953. They won all three home tests against Wales in June 2016.
15-Damian McKenzie, 14-Waisake Naholo, 13-Ryan Crotty, 12-Sonny Bill Williams, 11-Rieko Ioane, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-Aaron Smith, 8-Luke Whitelock, 7-Sam Cane, 6-Liam Squire, 5-Sam Whitelock (captain), 4-Patrick Tuipulotu, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Codie Taylor, 1-Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16-Nathan Harris, 17-Wyatt Crockett, 18-Ofa Tu‘ungafasi, 19-Scott Barrett, 20-Matt Todd, 21-TJ Perenara, 22-Lima Sopoaga, 23-Anton Lienert-Brown.
Reporting by Nick Said Editing by Jeremy Gaunt