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Returning Veterans Hailed By Henry

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Graham Henry
Graham Henry

Wellington, July 9 NZPA - The return of key cogs Richie McCaw, Rodney So'oialo and Sitiveni Sivivatu has had an instant impact on the attitude of the All Blacks, says coach Graham Henry.

After his Tri-Nations squad were put through the mill physically in the second and final session of a two-day camp here today, Henry emerged content that improved form loomed in the Tri-Nations.

Loose forwards McCaw and So'oialo had returned from injury breaks and brought with them a leadership that was missing during last month's efforts against France and Italy, Henry said.

Their influence will be like gold next week in the leadup to the opening Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations test against Australia in Auckland on July 18.

"They've made a difference already, and Siti coming back, those three guys ... because of their experience," Henry said.

"Their confidence rubs off on other people they know what they're about, they've been here before, they know what is required so they add a lot to the unit.

"They know what they need to do to be in the best shape for next Saturday. Hopefully they'll get through this Saturday."

Captain McCaw and No 8 So'oialo both played their last rugby in the Super 14 semifinals nearly seven weeks ago. McCaw injured his knee while the coaches deemed So'oialo needed to rest and rehabilitate from a neck injury.

McCaw pronounced his knee as "100 percent" after today's session, which included 40 minutes of an intense 10-a-side inter-squad game.

"It's more the lungs that are going to take a while to come right," he said following a training game notable for some lively collisions.

"It took a wee while for the guys to start getting into each other but once a couple of good shots went in, everyone was into it."

McCaw has built a reputation for returning to test rugby at full tilt after lengthy breaks and was hopeful that could continue next week.

"The first couple of games (back) are hard work but you accept that and just get out and get into it," he said.

"I guess (I have) a bit of experience, having gone through it a couple of times.

"In a team like the All Blacks, you've got pretty good fellas around you and you only need to do your job.

"If you get that right, you know you'll perform reasonably well."

Sivivatu returned to club rugby last week, something the two loose forwards will do this weekend.

Six other players are confirmed to line up for their clubs on Saturday -- halfback Brendon Leonard, lock Bryn Evans, props John Afoa, Owen Franks and Wyatt Crockett and hooker Aled de Malmanche.

Luke McAlister, who will play at first five-eighth against the Wallabies, is a 50/50 chance of playing for his club.

He missed his club appointment last weekend with a back strain that also saw him sit out the training camp.

Henry said he wasn't in doubt for the test.

"He's made some big improvements in the last couple of days. He'll only play (club rugby) if he's right."

Prop Neemia Tialata was also sidelined today, bothered by a pinched nerve in his neck which medical staff weren't overly concerned by.

"It was very important that they had a physical hit out," Henry said.

"Preparing physically for next week's test was important and a number of them have come off injury. Just getting the confidence to be out there playing was important."


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