Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Henry resists tweaking with All Blacks winning formula


To rotate or not to rotate, that was the question for All Blacks rugby coach Graham Henry. The answer was a surprising "no", as flanker Victor Vito was the solitary change to the starting 15 to face Wales at Carisbrook on Saturday.

The dynamic Vito came in for Jerome Kaino, who was rested from the 22 altogether to give him time to recover from a post-Super 14 hamstring strain and a calf twinge which saw him depart before halftime in the season-opening 66-28 win over Ireland.On the bench there were three changes: prop Tony Woodcock for Neemia Tialata, Adam Thomson for Vito and the returning midfielder Richard Kahui for Zac Guildford.Henry previously hinted at changes and appeared irked at questions about why he resisted more tweaking, recalling how he was pilloried for rest and rotation in previous years.

"We're just trying make sure we make good decisions and reinforce form, and tell guys who need to improve they need to improve from their Super 14 form," he said.With a few pen-strokes on a copy of the team sheet, Henry then explained in detail the thinking behind this week's 22.

Prop: "We're happy with the Franks boys and where they're at and we just need to encourage that, but Woodcock will get some game time. We think Neemia has got things to work on and we're giving him time to do that."At lock, two-try debutant Sam Whitelock was seen as a better bench prospect, and Tom Donnelly (ankle) hoped to play a local club match on Friday to test his fitness.

In the loose forwards, Kaino needed time to get his injuries right before the Tri-Nations, but could return to the bench on Saturday if Thomson was ruled out.Thomson departed today's session for treatment on a back injury, which medical staff hoped would recover in 48 hours.

Said Henry: "We'll have to wait and see how he (Thomson) is. There's no point him being there if he's not able to function at 100 percent. He's got to make a good decision."Halfback Jimmy Cowan was over a groin strain and would start again, with Piri Weepu still seen as an impact player from the bench.

Second five-eighth Benson Stanley and fullback Israel Dagg were rewarded for fine debuts in New Plymouth, while the back three remained intact due to Mils Muliaina's ongoing calf problem.He was still struggling and was on a "12-day programme" in the hope of being fit for the second test in Hamilton.

That meant Cory Jane remained in his wing spot as fullback cover, while Joe Rokocoko needed more game time since the end of Super 14.Kahui, recovered from a chest injury, was midfield/wing cover which meant bad luck for Guildford, who Henry said was a likely starter in Hamilton.Having retained the same tight five, Henry then identified the scrum as one of his must-improve areas on Saturday.

"We weren't that happy with it. We were okay on our ball but we didn't break them apart. I thought that was rather disappointing... particularly when Ireland only had seven (forwards)."

And he sent a not-so-subtle message that he hoped the scrums were a fair contest after some of their debacles on last year's European tour.

"It's a difficult part of the game and quite often some teams don't want to scrum. So they adjust their technique so that the penalties are even and the game becomes a shambles because one of the teams doesn't want to scrum which I find exceptionally irritating because it ruins the game," Henry said."When we play the Springboks and when we play the French it's a bloody good game of football because both sides want to scrum."

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