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Muliaina tops Tana, eyes 100 Tests

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NZPA     21 Aug 2009     Getty Images

Muliaina will play his 75th Test when he runs on to ANZ Stadium to face the Wallabies on Saturday, moving past former captain Umaga's 74 as the most-capped All Blacks outside back.

It lifts the fullback to fourth on the all-time All Blacks list, behind recordholder Sean Fitzpatrick (92 Tests), Justin Marshall (81) and Ian Jones (79), and one ahead of current captain Richie McCaw.

Having debuted in a narrow defeat to England in 2003 and been a regular fixture since, Muliaina admitted he'd reflect fondly on the three-quarter century.

"It's always nice to achieve things like that, I never really thought I'd get past 50," he said.

"It's great to last this long and also have the faith of the coaches behind me to still be in the black jersey. I'm pretty proud of that."

But his own form, since a strong Rebel Sport Super 14, and the All Blacks' dual South African defeats have added a bit of an edge.

He said the team's lack of continuity and flow in recent times had been mirrored by his own efforts.

"I've been really disappointed with the last couple of games I've played; a lot of over-thinking and not quite being there physically as well.

"I'm feeling good now, a lot of bubble this week and perhaps the best I've felt in the last few weeks so hopefully it rolls on to the game."

Samoan-born and Invercargill-raised, Muliaina was reluctant to look too far ahead from a personal level. If he remains injury-free and his form holds, he could potentially near 100 caps by the World Cup in New Zealand in 2011, when he'll be 31.

"Yeah definitely. Being at 75 you're obviously pretty close to that," he said.

"Fitzy's in the 90s... but that's for the future and I'm wanting to focus on right now. I've always been like that because you just don't know what could happen with injury, selection and with form.

"It would be nice to get that far but I've got to keep providing the goods to get there."

It was ironic he was passing Umaga's record, as he was a key figure in Muliaina's formative All Black years, he said.

"It was massive, he was very influential on me off the field and getting a lot of things right; talking about different things.

"He made me aware of being in the environment and what being an All Black is about. Also the little things about my game which was very influential. He was a big part of my career.

"I'd say he'd be keeping a big eye on things but I'm not sure if he knows (about the record)."