Friday, September 16, 2011

New All Blacks get unexpected chances

With Richie McCaw, Mils Muliaina and Dan Carter all ruled out of action for the All Blacks, their second World Cup match against Japan suddenly takes on a new dimension.

The All Blacks captain was to bring up his 100th test in Hamilton, while Muliaina was in a sense fighting for his fullbacks jersey – but that grand occasion and fascinating ‘trial’ will have to wait another day.

The fact that Dagg has been ruled out only adds more intrigue to this All Blacks team.

Isaia Toeava, Colin Slade, Victor Vito and Sonny Bill Williams are all beneficiaries of the late changes, with the latter potentially coming off the bench in a new capacity.

Toeava gets a start at fullback, with Ice in theory not a front line option for the All Blacks custodian position.

However if he can display his already proven x-factor capabilities and versatility, he will add to his stocks – with Toeava excelling from this position for the Blues until he was injured.

Slade will want to prove once and for all he is a quality first five-eighth on the test stage, and while he may suffer in comparison with arguably the best in the game, he does have the peace of mind of having the All Blacks most capped midfield playing outside of him.

Vito, whose star continues to rise, has an opportunity to potentially overtake Adam Thomson as the All Blacks fourth ranked loose forward, and how he imposes himself physically will be key for the home team’s go forward.

But it is Williams role that is interesting, as Henry said he would get extended game time, while he could play elsewhere in the backline.

"He (Williams) played well last week and we want to give him another opportunity,” Henry said.

“We may even play him in another position to see if he can handle a variety of positions."

"He's played all his rugby this year at 12. We might try and play him elsewhere. You'll have to wait and see. I don't want to make any rash promises. He's a quality footballer who creates opportunities.

"The two centres we've got, Nonu and Smith, have played a lot of games together and have played very well for the All Blacks. He might break in there or he might get an opportunity elsewhere. We're looking at that situation."

Meanwhile new captain Keven Mealamu, whose last assignment wearing the armband was in Port Elizabeth against the Springboks, said he cherished the responsibility and knew it was a tough job minus the injured stars.

"It's hard to lose players of that quality but it shows the trust we have in the guys coming in to do those jobs," Mealamu said.

"It's a special moment for me and my family and a big responsibility as well."

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