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Read set to skipper the All Blacks against Italy

NO 8 Kieran Read will captain the All Blacks for the first time against Italy on Saturday as coach Steve Hansen continues his long-term planning for a successor to Richie McCaw.

THE 27-year-old Read had been expected to be given the captaincy for one match on the end-of-season tour as Hansen said he wanted every player in the squad to get game time, which affords McCaw a rest.

McCaw, 31, who led the team in their 51-22 victory over Scotland last Sunday, has dropped out of the squad altogether with Sam Cane due to start at openside flanker.

"We were happy with our performance last weekend against Scotland but also knew there were areas for improvement ahead of the Italian test and we have been working on getting that right this week," Hansen said.

New Zealand: B Barrett, H Gear, C Smith, Ma'a Nonu, J Savea, A Cruden, A Smith, K Read (c), S Cane, L Messam, B Retallick, A Williams, C Faumuina, K Mealamu, T Woodcock.