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NZ Tidy Up Loose Ends Ahead Of Tri-Nations

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
NZ Tidy Up Loose Ends Ahead Of Tri-Nations

Wellington, July 8 NZPA - The All Blacks should not be at a loose end heading into the Tri-Nations, starting with next week's rugby test against Australia in Auckland.

The return of inspirational captain Richie McCaw and his experienced sidekick Rodney So'oialo should help silence much of the sideline chatter which arose following the early season tests against France and Italy.

A notable feature of the drawn home series against the Frenchmen and an indifferent although successful one-off test against Italy was the messy work of New Zealand's loose forwards.

Without injured openside flanker McCaw and No 8 So'oialo, coach Graham Henry tampered with combinations, and at no stage did the understudies fully front to the challenge.

McCaw and So'oialo were always going to return to the fold and they joined their teammates in Wellington today for a two-day camp before the team reassemble in Auckland next week ahead of the test against the Wallabies on July 18.

Their reappearance has seen Liam Messam and George Whitelock cut from the squad, but So'oialo, who has 55 tests behind him, is confident those two will return at a later date much better for the experience.

"I thought they (loose forwards) did well in certain areas but playing the French they got beaten in certain areas, too," said So'oialo, who stressed that loose forward combinations always took time to gel.

"Those guys will only grow from that. You learn a lot more when you have games like that than you do when you win and your team goes well.

"I have certainly been in that position. I personally think it takes a stronger person to come back from it and I see a lot of spark and fire in those guys' eyes."

Henry is expected to use McCaw and So'oialo in tandem with blindside flanker Jerome Kaino against the Wallabies, meaning Canterbury's Kieran Read will watch from the reserves bench after starting all three of the early season tests.

Read said So'oialo's availability was a boost.

"He is probably one of the best No 8s in the world and he has a lot of experience. He's a good leader of the loose forwards."

So'oialo, 29, is extra eager for action again, after being sidelined for two months to treat a neck injury.

The Hurricanes captain did not consider the break a rest period.

"It is not so much of a rest when you keep working hard, doing the weights and running."

He said the injury, a genetic problem which caused bone to compress on the spinal chord, was manageable.

"It is not an uncommon problem, it's nothing major, but it's more annoying than anything. I am now 100 percent."

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