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It's a sight for an All Blacks coach's sore eyes - skipper Richie McCaw back playing today in a game of 10-aside rugby with his injured knee completely healed.
“It was fine, I'm really happy with it, it was more the lungs and things that will take a while to come right,” says McCaw. Happy too was coach Graham Henry as McCaw is not the only senior player back in black.
Sitiveni Sivivatu played for Frankton last Saturday and No.8 Rodney So'oialo, who was as busy as ever today, could make a rare appearance for his club this weekend. A neck injury meant today's game was his first in eight weeks.
“The physicality and preparing physically for next week's test was critically important and a number of them have come off injury and just getting the confidence to be out there playing was very important to them,” said Henry.
And after a rather bleak June Henry says the return of McCaw, So'oialo and Sivivatu has made a big difference.
“Because of their experience their confidence rubs off on other people they know what they're about, they've been here before, they know what is required so they add a lot to the unit,” says Henry.
But another experienced player, wing Joe Rokocoko may not start against the Wallabies with Cory Jane a chance to start instead and No.10 remains a headache. Piri Weepu and Stephen Brett ran there today as Luke McAlister has a sore back and Stephen Donald a strained hamstring. Of the two Donald is the less likely to be fit to face Australia.
What the coaches would give to see this Dan Carter available again, they'll have to wait though, his Achilles injury is likely to sideline him for all of the Tri-Nations.