Rugby World Cup 2011: Richie McCaw passed fit for All Blacks

Richie McCaw
McCaw is the first All Black to win 100 international caps

New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has been passed fit for Sunday's World Cup semi-final against Australia.

The flanker, 30, has overcome a foot injury and has been named in an All Blacks team to which coach Graham Henry has made three changes.

Aaron Cruden will start at fly-half while full-back Israel Dagg returns after missing the quarter-final victory over Argentina.

Winger Richard Kahui replaces Sonny Bill Williams, who is on the bench.

New Bath signing Stephen Donald, who joined the squad earlier this week when fly-half Colin Slade was ruled out with a groin injury, is also named as a replacement.

Dan Carter's absence means Cruden is the All Blacks' third-choice fly-half and he has made just seven Test appearances; his only start coming against Australia in September 2010.

He struggled in the match, that New Zealand went on to win, and was substituted in the second half, but Henry believes he has matured as a player since then and has no qualms about playing the 22-year-old.

"He's a year older and a lot more experienced and that's important," Henry said. "That was his first big test match and he has learned from that experience.

"It's very seldom that people are the finished product at their first outing and you get better with age as time goes on."

McCaw's fitness is a major boost to New Zealand, who have not won the World Cup since 1987.

The flanker missed the opening two months of the Super 15 tournament with the injury and has sat out two matches at the World Cup.

He had limited participation in training but played through the pain in the quarter-final win over Argentina.

"He's got a niggly foot and the more we keep him off it the more chance he'll play 80 minutes in the weekend," Henry explained.

"He's frustrated by it obviously. He'd like to take full part. You have to be pragmatic and he's doing that. Some other people might push and not play, he's not pushing it so he can play so he's making good decisions."

McCaw's inclusion means that Henry has named his strongest pack for their "biggest game in 10 years".

He added: "That eight has played a lot of footy together. A lot of Test matches.

"No excuses for us. We know what the situation is and we have a huge game in the weekend. If you're not focused now, you'll never be focused.

"There's a quiet determination there. They're a bit quieter than usual. Probably because it's such a huge game.

"The team was very happy with the way they played in the quarter-final win over Argentina," Henry said.

"It was a really intense battle, and that is what we needed heading into this weekend's match.

"We have been building slowly this week to be ready for Sunday, when we know there will need to be a further lift in intensity and physicality."

Australia triumphed in the last meeting between the countries almost two months ago, while both previous World Cup contests also went the Wallabies' way in the 1991 and 2003 semi-finals.

However, the All Blacks are unbeaten at Eden Park in 17 years and have not lost there to Australia since 1986.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Richard Kahui, Aaron Cruden, Piri Weepu, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Sam Whitelock, Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (captain), Kieran Read.

Replacements: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Ali Williams, Victor Vito, Andy Ellis, Stephen Donald, Sonny Bill Williams.

Catch up with more news from New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup round-up.