Mils will join Richie McCaw as a Test Centurian

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry and his Assistant Coaches Steve Hansen and Wayne Smith have today announced the All Blacks team for their Quarterfinal match of the 2011 Rugby World Cup against Argentina at Eden Park, Auckland, on Sunday October 9.

The highlight of the team announcement is the naming of 31–year–old fullback Mils Muliaina who will play his 100th Test.  He is just the second All Black to reach the milestone, following captain Richie McCaw’s 100th Test against France two weeks ago. Muliaina made his All Blacks debut in 2003, has captained the team in three Tests in 2009 and has scored 34 Test tries.

All Blacks Coach Graham Henry, who has known Muliaina since his schoolboy days, today paid tribute to the fullback:  “I want to congratulate Mils on this outstanding achievement.  He is a special man and has been a world–class All Black for many years – the consummate professional really – as well as a very influential member of the All Blacks leadership group.”

In other changes in the backline, Piri Weepu will start at halfback, Sonny Bill Williams comes onto the right wing, with three of the All Blacks backs – Zac Guildford (hamstring), Israel Dagg (thigh haematoma) and Richard Kahui (hamstring) – recovering from injuries, while Ma’a Nonu is back at second five–eighth.  Meanwhile, 2010 All Black Aaron Cruden, who was called into the All Blacks to replace the injured Daniel Carter, is on the bench.

In the forwards, captain Richie McCaw returns to the starting XV after missing last week’s Test against Canada with a sore foot, while Keven Mealamu and Brad Thorn also return to the starting XV.

Henry said: “There has been a real feeling of positive anticipation in the squad this week now that we have finished the Pool play rounds and are into the Quarterfinals. There is excitement amongst the team and we have had a good build–up on the North Shore this week, but there is also a realisation that this is sudden death, finals rugby.

“We have the utmost respect for Argentina. They showed in their Pool matches, especially against England and Scotland, just how physical their game is, especially at set piece and at the breakdown.”

The All Blacks and Argentina have played each other 13 times with 12 wins to the All Blacks and the one draw. The teams have met just once previously at the Rugby World Cup, at Wellington’s Athletic Park, in 1987.

Starting XV:
1.         Tony Woodcock (80)
2.         Keven Mealamu (89)
3.         Owen Franks (28)
4.         Samuel Whitelock (22)
5.         Brad Thorn (56)
6.         Jerome Kaino (45)
7.         Richie McCaw – captain (100)
8.         Kieran Read (33)
9.         Piri Weepu (53)
10.       Colin Slade (9)
11.       Sonny Bill Williams (11)
12.       Ma’a Nonu (63)
13.       Conrad Smith (52)
14.       Cory Jane (28)
15.       Mils Muliaina (99)

16.       Andrew Hore (59)
17.       Ben Franks (14)
18.       Ali Williams (70)
19.       Victor Vito (11)
20.       Jimmy Cowan (50)
21.       Aaron Cruden (6)
22.       Isaia Toeava (35)
Number of Test caps in brackets