By JIM KAYES, The Dominion Post
Saturday, 30 August 2008
Richie McCaw remains a dodgy prospect for Wednesday's test against Samoa but should be okay for the Tri-Nations "final" against Australia in Brisbane a week later.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry talked to his captain on Thursday and said yesterday he was only a 50-50 chance to play in the first test at New Plymouth's Yarrow Stadium.
McCaw bruised his ribs in the 19-0 win against South Africa in Cape Town on August 16 and Henry said he was still a bit tender.
"He is keen to play [against Samoa] but we will know how bad he is next week. At the moment he's 50-50 and we won't risk him if he isn't right - we won't risk anybody who is questionable."
Already out are fullback Leon MacDonald, who continues to have issues with concussion, and halfback Andy Ellis, whose ongoing rib injury means Piri Weepu will remain with the All Blacks.
But he is unlikely to be used at first five-eighth in a test despite playing there for Wellington last week and again today against Bay of Plenty.
However, Henry was thrilled with how Weepu had played when he came on for the final 27 minutes against South Africa at Newlands and felt playing at pivot would only enhance his game.
"It will be good for him to get a feel for what is happening outside halfback. It will help with his vision and his play. Being captain and playing at 10 will be a good experience for him."
Wednesday's test is not expected to be a great experience for Samoa, who have a massively inexperienced side because the European clubs have not released their players for the match.
Though the scoreline is expected to be lopsided, Henry was confident the game would be worthwhile.
"The test is part of our preparation for the match in Brisbane, which is now the final of the Tri-Nations - it's winner takes all. So it's an important part of our preparation and important for the guys to play together again because four weeks is a long time between tests. The guys need to get a feel for the rhythm and physicality of a test match and Samoa will give us that."