Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Canterbury stars to resume All Blacks service


Normal service should resume on Saturday, with most of Canterbury's All Black contingent not available for the clash with Bay of Plenty in Mt Maunganui.

Isaac Ross and Owen Franks were never in contention and Richie McCaw, Brad Thorn and Daniel Carter got the game time allotted by the national selectors in the weekend's Ranfurly Shield win over Wellington.

Wyatt Crockett is free to play, but doubts remain over Kieran Read, who took a knock to his knee in the All Blacks' win over Australia on August 22.

"We won't know fully who's available to us until probably Wednesday or Thursday, when we name the side," coach Rob Penney said."The communication from the All Blacks [management] has been really good. The primary All Blacks guys won't be available to us and we'll just gauge whether Kieran Read is or not based on his desires and his recovering from his knee but I suspect it's highly unlikely," he said.

With the All Blacks to complete their Tri-Nations campaign with tests against South Africa on September 12 and Australia the following Saturday, the unavailability of Canterbury's star players for the Bay of Plenty match provides Penney with a chance to knit combinations required for Shield challenges from Otago and Taranaki on those weekends.

However, the selection puzzle for Saturday's game is complicated by a lack of fit candidates to play at No8 and lock James Broadhurst's shoulder injury, sustained against Wellington.
Midfield back Tim Bateman also picked up a calf problem.

Penney and assistant Tabai Matson joined most of the squad in a "spin" class in Christchurch yesterday, as they worked off the remnants of Saturday's Shield-winning celebrations.

"As good as the Shield win was, it will sort of detract from it a little bit if we don't go out and perform this weekend," hooker Corey Flynn said.

The victory was Flynn's third in a Shield challenge for Canterbury. His knowledge will be vital for a young squad that will have to adjust to the intensity of upcoming defences.

"You can speak from experience and provide a bit of a `follow the leader' style. In another aspect, though, it's a good thing for these younger players to have this pressure on them so early on in their careers, because it helps them grow."

On a personal note, Flynn believed he was approaching top condition after missing much of the year with a broken arm.

"In my scrummaging I'm still a little slow. There were a couple of times [on Saturday] where the old neck was a little bit tight, whereas when you're playing week in, week out, scrums are just scrums and you don't really feel it. The body's still getting used to it and the spine's got to shrink a bit and the neck's got to shrink a bit until everything feels really good."

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