New Zealand Rugby
Kiwis set to experiment against Fiji
July 19, 2011
Jarrad Hoeata looks set to make his All Blacks debut against Fiji on Friday © Getty Images
The All Blacks are expected to ring the changes for Friday's Test match against Fiji in Dunedin.
Only four of the starting team that last year overcame Wales 37-25 took part in what looked like a shadow test 15 at Carisbrook on Tuesday: fullback Mils Muiliaina, centre Conrad Smith, half-back Jimmy Cowan and captain Richie McCaw. It was the final training run before the team is named on Wednesday.
The All Blacks selectors are keen to rest key players after an arduous Super Rugby campaign for the Crusaders and the Blues, and the Fiji game will allow them to do that ahead of the Tri-Nations. But they will take note of Samoa's historic 32-23 win over Australia on Sunday and use that game as motivation to prevent a similar outcome.
Those not included in the 22 for Friday's fundraiser for Canterbury earthquake victims are returning home to spend time with their families, with the bulk of those players expected to be Crusaders. The squad reassembles in Wellington to prepare for the test against the Springboks on July 30.
Jarrad Hoeata looks certain to make his test debut after he partnered Ali Williams in the second row, while the loose forward trio featured McCaw, Adam Thomson and Liam Messam. Hurricanes discard Andrew Hore was joined by Crusaders props Ben Franks and Wyatt Crockett in the front row while Colin Slade ran at first five-eighth. Ma'a Nonu was outside Slade with Zac Guildford and Sitiveni Sivivatu on the wings.
All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen said yesterday that player workloads would need to be managed and highlighted the stresses Crusaders players had endured during a season which fell at the last hurdle with defeat in the Super Rugby final against the Reds. "Super Rugby this year has been tremendously physical, more than anyone expected," Hansen said. "Throw in the emotional toll of not having a fixed home and having to travel all the time, and the emotional effect of having earthquakes regularly up there. Those guys have been through a lot.
"To allow them to just take a step back and take a breath and re-gather themselves is going to be hugely important if we want them to be in good form going into the World Cup."
All Blacks first five-eighth Dan Carter said he would be eager to take to field to face the Fijians. "I'd be pretty keen to get some game time, whether it's starting or off the bench," Carter said. Carter had taken a week off after the Super Rugby final loss and said the mental strain of the Crusaders' campaign took its toll."I was really up for those playoff games, but at the end of it mentally I was pretty tired."
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