Friday, June 15, 2007

Misc news before NZ vs. Canada (Saturday June 16th, 2007)

Transcript of the program NZ vs. Canada
(Friday, June 15th)

Fearless and peerless, Richie McCaw was recognised by the IRB as its player of 2006 after leading the Crusaders and the All Blacks in seasons of overwhelming dominance.

His grandfather Jim was a WW2 pilot, crediting with destroying 20 VI Flying Bombs as the honed in on London. It was dangerous and heroic work -and at 9, Richie heard the stories as they flew gliders arounf Otago together.

These genes, these stories and the toughness of his early days on his parents' farm have forged a rugby warrior : one who bleeds and bruises but always rebounds, picking off the enemy ball, getting behind their lines.

"I've probably split each eyebrow 30 times and both cheekbones at least half a dozen times", said Richie last year. "It's just one of the hazards of my position. As an open side flanker you are into contact a fair bit and if I don't get amongst that, somebody else will. That's the attitude you need to play in that position."

Richie made his All Blacks debut in 2001 against Ireland and was man-of-the-match. Getting that black jumper was just the start of his mission -one which may expect will see him lift the William Webb Ellis Cup later this year.

"There is a real art to modern open-side play", said All Blacks great Zinzan Brooke. "And Richie has mastered it."

All Blacks aim for a cricket score

Jun 15, 2007
By Joel Tiller

If the previous fortnight's twin thrashings of France were largely pointless exercises brought about by IRB grandstanding and French Federation bloody mindedness then this test match against Canada must be described as quite simply farcical.

Canada does not have a hope in hell of being competitive in this test. While reportedly the Canuks are only two players short of fielding their 'strongest,' available line-up (and we should be grateful for this) on Saturday in Hamilton they, like the All Blacks, are missing their two first choice locks who have just finished club commitments in that overdrawn French provincial competition (30 games per season).

You know, the French Top 14? That domestic league that no-one cares about; that one that drags on longer than an Irish wake but the French take oh-so-seriously..And the league that prevented France from sending a respectable squad down here to threaten the All Blacks.

Honestly you could fit several African civil wars into the amount of time it takes to finish one French rugby season. But I digress.
As the New Zealand public is well aware the All Blacks have demolished France in the first meaningless test and then illustrated even more emphatically how rubbish this token French side truly was by bettering that with a record score last weekend.

So now the All Blacks are to complete their Tri Nations preparations with a glorified training run against a humble international side that was recently thrashed by our virtual 'C team' the New Zealand Maori by 59-23.
I mean no disrespect to Canada; beautiful country, enjoyable people, great indie music scene, but this test is as much a waste of their time as it for the All Blacks and a mighty long flight to get here. The best they can hope for is a score that doesn't reach 80-100.

The most significant talking points in this final 'preseason' encounter are undoubtedly the unexpected selection experiment of transplanting proven second five Luke McAlister at centre this weekend and the enforced call-ups of second string locks Troy Flavell and Ross Filipo. In fact it is probably a tad generous to include Filipo in the second string category as prior to Ali Williams and Keith Robinson pulling up hurt, and then Jack withdrawing to attend his newborn, the rugged Crusaders and Wellington lock didn't even figure (publicly at least) in the selectors plans.

Flavell appeared to rank as third lock off the rank prior to Williams/Robinson/Jack falling by the wayside, for now at least, but now gains a useful opportunity to show his talents for a full 80 minutes. Likewise Filipo, who has toiled impressively for his province and franchise in recent seasons, gets to demonstrate his physical and athletic style of play. However, little can be read into their Tri Nations credentials on the basis of one hit-out together as a combination against this lightweight test opposition.

Next week will likely see Flavell and Jack face up to the wrath of the premier locking pairing currently packing down in international rugby, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha. It is a formidable assignment at any time, but particularly without proven performers on the bench.

Of less concern is the thought of McAlister lining up at No 13. His career thus far has seen him initially preferred at No 10, then developed increasingly impressively at No 12 and now shifting one further out again. He has the physical attributes; size, strength, solid tackling (although sometimes his technique is wayward) excellent distribution skills, speed and a sixth sense for gaps in the defence.

But this left field change does beg the question: Why not give Muliaina some time back in the No 13 saddle? Or Toeava another opportunity to further build his confidence?
On the positive side this experiment will perhaps provide the selectors another string in their collective bow and the thought of a World Cup backline featuring Mr Carter, Mauger and McAlister side by side is certainly an intriguing one.

Otherwise there is little else to get excited about. In the backline Muliaina gets a chance to stretch his legs and shake off some rust as he returns from three weeks injury enforced leave and third choice wing Doug Howlett gets an extended run. In the forwards the selectors have taken the opportunity to field their second string front row combination; a trio, it should be noted, that all other test coaches (possibly baring Jake White) would probably cut off their right arm to be able to field as first choice.
Prediction: All Blacks by 80 (give or take a conversion or two).

All Blacks: 15. Mils Muliaina, 14. Doug Howlett, 13. Luke McAlister, 12. Aaron Mauger, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Byron Kelleher, 8. Jerry Collins, 7. Chris Masoe, 6. Reuben Thorne (capt), 5. Ross Filipo, 4. Troy Flavell, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore, 1. John Schwalger.

Res: 16. Keven Mealamu, 17. Carl Hayman, 18. Rodney So'oialo, 19. Richie McCaw, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Rico Gear, 22. Leon MacDonald.

Canada: 15. Mike Pyke, 14. Justin Mensah-Coker, 13. Craig Culpan, 12. David Spicer, 11. James Pritchard, 10. Ryan Smith, 9. Morgan Williams (capt), 8. Sean-Michael Stephen, 7. Stan Mckeen, 6. Colin Yukes, 5. Mike Burak, 4. Luke Tait, 3. Scott Franklin, 2. Pat Riordan, 1. Kevin Tkachuk.

Res: 16. Aaron Carpenter, 17. Dan Pletch, 18. Mike Pletch, 19. Josh Jackson, 20. Adam Kleeberger, 21. Dean van Camp, 22. Ed Fairhurst.

Ref: Bob Francis (NZ)
A tour of the All Blacks' changing room

Fri, 15 Jun 2007 11:30p.m.
Have you ever wanted to have a look round the All Blacks’ changing room before the game?
Well not surprisingly so did Emma Keeling, and Waikato captain and former All Black Steven Bates kindly offered to be her host.

Rugby: Thorne back as All Black captain

Fri, 15 Jun 2007 6:44p.m.
Reuben Thorne has been there, done that – but he has never had the winning skipper's World Cup t-shirt. Now, after a break of four years, he is back as All Black captain. And although it is only against Canada, it is a sign he is in the running as Richie McCaw's backup.

Thorne ready to captain the All Blacks

Smith is the latest AB casualty

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