KIERAN READ will captain the All Blacks against Italy in Rome this weekend.
Richie McCaw has been given a weeks rest ahead of tougher matches to come against Wales and England.
It is the first time Read has captained the side, and is expected to be in preparation for him taking it on when McCaw takes six months off next year.
“He’s done a lot of it for the Crusaders. He’s a genuine leader,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told Fairfax NZ.
“He’s been a leader of the forwards and line-out for some time now. It comes naturally to him. Obviously he’s not the finished product at this level but he’ll grow over time into a very good captain.”
Sam Cane will earn his second start in the loose-forward trio in McCaw’s absence, while Liam Messam also returns.
“We’ve already seen enough from Sam Cane to know he’s made for test rugby,” Hansen said. “This game is about giving him another opportunity to get some experience and learn it’s not always going to be an easy ride.”
Dan Carter will be on the bench, with Aaron Cruden directing play from No 10, while the first-choice midfield of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith return, with Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith both injured against Scotland.
In total there are 14 changes to the starting lineup.
All Blacks: Beauden Barrett, Hosea Gear, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Julian Savea, Aaron Cruden. Aaron Smith. Kieran Read, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Ali Williams, Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Victor Vito, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Dan Carter, Cory Jane