Thursday, June 07, 2012

Battered and bruised McCaw and Read to welcome newbie James Mortimer - (3/06/2012)

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw sported stiches in his lips, while number eight Kieran Read technically has a broken nose, but the two warhorses will suit up to lead the World Champions back row into combat.

Further to this the credentialed duo, featuring the combined experience of 139-test matches, will welcome a new permanent addition to their exclusive three-man back row club when the All Blacks kick off proceedings in the Steinlager Series against Ireland.

With Jerome Kaino absent, there will be the opportunity for a player to seal their position as the All Blacks incumbent blindside flanker.

Assuming the All Blacks selectors don’t try and counter Ireland’s tall timber in the lineout by selecting a lock at blindside (Anthony Boric featured at six during the World Cup), then three players will have an opportunity to stamp their claims.

Sam Cane, selected primarily as Richie McCaw’s ‘understudy’, is unlikely to be thrust into test action out of position.

So Adam Thomson or Victor Vito will have battle it out in what will be a fascinating sub-plot to see who is in a sense crowned the heir apparent to last season’s New Zealand Player of the Year.

With Kaino himself taking time to cement himself in the role, expect the head-to-head between Thomson and Vito to rage beyond the three-test series with Ireland.

Both have the added luxury of being lineout targets for their respective franchises, and while Thomson may have a slight edge on the deck, Vito’s physicality has gone up a notch this season.

Irrespective of this there will be two battle hardened warriors to lead from the front.

Read left the field during the Crusaders 51-18 win against the Highlanders, and he revealed that Crusaders and All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson had to literally put his nose back in.

After missing one match due to a suspected injured pelvis, the injury to Read’s nose will not sideline the form number eight ahead of his clash with a credentialed Irish back row.

McCaw also relished the intensity of the match against the Highlanders, seen more than once getting involved in some behind the scenes “how you doing” with Jarrad Hoeata.

The Crusaders and the All Blacks would have been thrilled with the level of play in the recent New Zealand derbies, which have served their purpose as an ideal warm-up leading into the World Champions first test of 2012.

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