Wednesday, October 03, 2007

France vs. NZ (on RugbyHeaven)

Carter picked, Howlett dropped
Jim Kayes in Cardiff October 3, 2007 - 9:41AM

Daniel Carter will play in Sunday's quarter-final against France but All Blacks coach Graham Henry has sprung three World Cup surprises.

Keith Robinson will start against France with only 55 minutes of Rugby World Cup play behind him, while fullback Mils Muliaina has been moved to centre.

And in-form wing Doug Howlett, who has snared the All Blacks Test try-scoring record while in France, has missed out on the 22 behind Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu.

Any one of those three wings is a quality player but the selection of Muliaina at centre, while not too surprising, is a blow for Conrad Smith.

Smith started at centre against Portugal and Scotland, and came off the bench against Romania, but has failed to dominate the midfield.

Muliaina started at centre against Italy , after Smith was a late withdrawal, and is experienced in the position. But, like Robinson, he has had limited game time.

He played only 53 minutes against Italy and came off injured in the seventh minute against Portugal nearly three weeks ago and has not played since.

His shift bolsters the All Blacks defence and should give them the speed, strength, vision and intelligence that only Smith and Isaia Toeava combined would deliver.

Henry's biggest surprise is lock where Robinson will start in the most important test in the last four years with less than an hour's play in more than two months behind him.

Robinson missed the first three pool games with a calf injury that also kept him out of the All Blacks warm-up matches in New Zealand.

He started only two games in the Tri Nations, getting 64 minutes against South Africa in Christchurch and a full game against Australia in Auckland a week later.

He is renowned for his ability to come back from long breaks and play well, but was not a huge presence against Romania last week apart from in the lineouts.

There is a safety clause for Sunday, however, with Chris Jack on the bench, but there is also an element of "crocks" to this team.

Three of the backs - Carter, Muliaina and fullback Leon MacDonald - have had recent injuries, while Robinson's fitness is never guaranteed. All Blacks backs coach Wayne Smith admitted Carter would have to be monitored during the week.

"We feel he's going to be okay but you never 100 per cent in these things, we've been wrong before," said Smith.

"We have to manage him well, make sure we give him every opportunity and we'll do that the best way we can.

"He's pretty excited. We'll see how he copes with the week. We've still got a bit of time up our sleeve.

Smith admitted picking the team was difficult and some players would feel "a pang of disappointment".

"Individually the backs have played pretty well. It's just a matter of getting combinations right, getting the selection right this week.

"They're difficult things but they're good problems ... they're ready to play."

England referee Wayne Barnes will control Sunday's test with countrymen Tony Spreadbury on touch and Chris White the video referee. South African Jonathan Kaplan is the other touch judge.

New Zealand's Paul Honiss has two games as a touch judge. The first is Australia's quarter-final against England in Marseille which will be refereed by Ireland's Alain Rolland.

The following day he and Steve Walsh will be on touch when Ireland Alan Lewis referees the second quarter-final in Marseille between South Africa and Fiji.

Meanwhile, former New Zealand and Wales rugby boss David Moffett has urged the Welsh union to sign Waikato's Warren Gatland as coach.

Wales sacked coach Gareth Jenkins after they failed to make the World Cup play-offs and Moffett said Gatland, a former Ireland coach, was "the best coach to take Wales forward".

"He is outstanding and would have done a much better job with Ireland than Eddie O'Sullivan. Wales shouldn't look anywhere else."

NEW ZEALAND: 15 Leon MacDonald, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Mils Muliaina, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Rodney So'oialo, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Keith Robinson, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Reserves: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Neemia Tialata, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Chris Masoe, 20 Brendon Leonard, 21 Nick Evans, 22 Isaia Toeava.

France force strip change on All Blacks
October 3, 2007 - 10:40AM

The All Blacks will have to wear their change strip of grey in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against France after losing the coin toss to decide shirt colours for the match, according to a source inside the French camp.

New Zealand's famous black shirts were deemed to be too similar to France's blue-black kit.

The All Blacks have already worn their alternative strip in the World Cup in the pool match against Scotland on September 23.

Although they won the game 40-0, there were complaints there was a colour clash with the Scots who donned their redesigned home kit, a mostly navy shirt with grey piping, along with dark navy shorts and navy and grey socks.

Breaking news : Steve Devine retires

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