Tuesday July 26, 2011 Source: Fairfax
Richie McCaw is poised to start at No 8 against South Africa, with Adam Thomson given the chance to affirm his status as the best backup openside for the Rugby World Cup.
With incumbent No 8 Kieran Read one of four players being rested this week, it appears McCaw will be named on Thursday at the back of the scrum.
It would mark the first time the All Blacks captain has not started in his accustomed No7 jersey during his 95-test career.
McCaw ran at No 8 during yesterday's training session at Porirua's Te Rauparaha Arena, with Jerome Kaino at blindside and Thomson on the openside, the same trio that finished the 60-14 win over Fiji in Dunedin last Friday.
If named it would continue a trend of McCaw being groomed as Read's backup at the back of the scrum.
McCaw started at No 8 in his comeback match for the Crusaders this year and has been used there sporadically, including the second half of the win over Fiji.
It would be a deserved reward for Thomson who was a star performer during that match after starting at blindside, then moving to No 7.
The All Blacks' coaches have said a specialist seven could still be brought in for the Rugby World Cup, but Thomson now has a prime opportunity to send a message that he is that player.
If training was a guide, Sam Whitelock looks set to return at lock alongside Ali Williams, and Dan Carter at first five-eighth, in what would represent three personnel changes and one positional shift from the team that played Fiji.
Wellington's Cory Jane could also get a start after running on the right wing, although Sitiveni Sivivatu did not take part in the team run, instead heading to the gym.
All Blacks' assistant coach Wayne Smith confirmed the Crusaders trio of Read, lock Brad Thorn, and prop Owen Franks, along with Blues hooker Keven Mealamu, would be given another week's rest.
The same applies to wing Hosea Gear, who Smith said was close to full fitness, but would not be risked till his hamstring was 100 per cent. Smith wasn't revealing who would start against South Africa and said the coaches had still not settled on their top XV.
But he did say some individuals were "still over-cooked" from their Super Rugby campaigns and would be held back for another week.