Sportal.co.nz 17.Nov.2012Getty Images
Crusaders No.8 Kieran Read has been identified as the man to follow in McCaw's footsteps once the 31-year-old openside great retires.
Read is the game's outstanding No.8 and is held in high esteem by McCaw and the New Zealand management.
But the 27-year-old, who will win his 46th cap at the Stadio Olimpico, insists he is deputising for a player he views as the finest All Blacks leader of all time.
"I can't wait to run out at the head of the pack, but it's all about getting my job done so it is pretty important to make sure I do that," he said.
"It is a great opportunity, a massive honour and one of the biggest jobs in the country.
"I'll be following a man McCaw who, in my opinion, is the best captain ever in the All Blacks.
"He told me the easiest way to lead is if you are the best player on the pitch and I think he does that every week and that is essentially how I want to do things as well.
"I have to get my performance right, then the guys will follow and you can lead with your words after that."
New Zealand sent a shudder through the rugby world when they made 14 changes to the side that thumped Scotland 51-22, yet were still able to select a formidable XV full of household names.
Dan Carter may be on the bench - McCaw is rested completely - but Read, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith feature among a starting line-up that numbers 534 caps.
The last of Italy's 11 meetings with New Zealand - all of which ended in defeat - was a creditable 20-6 loss in Milan three years ago.
The Azzurri warmed up for the clash with a 28-23 victory over Tonga, but coach Jacques Brunel has named his strongest XV against the All Blacks with fly-half Luciano Orquera, wing Mirco Bergamasco and prop Martin Castrogiovanni returning.
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