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Hansen hails Nonu ahead of 100th All Blacks cap

Hansen hails Nonu ahead of 100th All Blacks cap

Steve Hansen admits Ma’a Nonu has come a long way since winning his first cap as the centre prepares to become New Zealand’s latest centurion in the clash with Tonga.

Steve Hansen admits Ma’a Nonu has come a long way since winning his first cap as the centre prepares to become New Zealand’s latest centurion in the clash with Tonga.

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The All Blacks, who host the British & Irish Lions in 2017, secured their passage into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals last Friday after beating Georgia handily enough at the Millennium Stadium.

But Hansen hasn’t made wholesale changes, with nine of the starting XV that played Georgia retained – although 33-year-old Nonu makes his first start since the opener against Argentina after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Skipper Richie McCaw is rested as a precaution after picking up a knock to his hip last week, with understudy Sam Cane taking his place at openside flanker.

No.8 Kieran Read has been named captain and Hansen says Nonu, who made his All Blacks debut in 2003, has left no stone unturned on the way to becoming one of the world’s best centres.

"The first conversation I ever had with him was that we don't think you're fit enough and we want you to go to sevens,” said Hansen.

“He went there and changed himself. He went from being a blockbusting, hard-running centre to a really fit centre, who could then play for long periods into the game.

“He's developed the skills over the period and is a beautiful passing centre as well as a blockbusting runner.

"He's grown into a leader within the group. He doesn't say a lot but when he does speak it's right on the money. He asks a lot of himself and cares a lot about the team – and we care a lot about him.

"It's a fantastic achievement to play one test for the All Blacks let alone 100 and he should be very proud of himself, his family is very proud of him and we as All Blacks are all very proud of him."

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