TOBY ROBSON IN EDINBURGH - Fairfax Media
Nov 10th, 2010
Scotland appears to have earned more than just lip service from the All Blacks coaches ahead of Sunday’s test at Murrayfield.
Captain Richie McCaw and first-five Dan Carter both played significant roles in training today at the local Spartans Football Club firming suspicions they will start the second leg of the Grand Slam.
The All Blacks coaches have spoken all week of the respect they have for the Scots after their recent run of strong test results and promised to make few changes to the team that beat England at Twickenham.
Sonny-Bill Williams looks likely to be named at second-five alongside Conrad Smith as the selectors investigate further the best way to use the former league internationals size and strength.
Debate has swirled around whether McCaw and, or Carter would have a rest, but a two hour training session, at times in driving hail, suggests both could play their third match in succession.
Veterans Brad Thorn and Mils Muliaina also played strong roles that suggest they too will carry on as the All Blacks look to keep the momentum going in the third match of their northern tour.
Young lock Sam Whitlock spent much of the session in the second row and may have edged past Tom Donnelly as Thorn’s right hand man.
Liam Messam spent some time in the loose forward mix, while Cory Jane spent plenty of time in a red-bib suggesting his chest injury may still not be 100 per cent.
With Jane potentially injured and Hosea Gear widely expected to get another run, Isaia Toeava and Joe Rokocoko could be battling it out for the opposite wing spot.
If the selectors are wavering toward their top side Jimmy Cowan will start at halfback with either Alby Mathewson or Andy Ellis in the reserves.
The hooking spot is likely to remain on hold as Keven Mealamu fronts the judiciary in Glasgow today putting his role in the test in doubt.
He took a limited role in the team run today with Hika Elliot and Andrew Hore sharing duties in the front row.
After a long injury lay off Hore may come off the bench, though it would also make sense to give him the start and allow him to run his lungs to their limit before handing Elliot his test debut.