Masoe gets call, So'oialo named as skipper
June 29, 2008

Loose forward Chris Masoe will join the All Blacks squad for the Tri-Nations rugby test against South Africa here next Saturday.

Masoe replaces injured captain Richie McCaw for the two Tri-Nations tests against the Springboks, with the loose forward mix to be reassessed before tests against Australia next month.

"Chris' experience against South Africa and knowledge of our systems mean he's the right choice," All Blacks coach Graham Henry said today.

The team contained a number of players featuring in their first All Blacks side and bringing another youngster in at this stage probably wasn't the right thing to do.

Masoe, with experience in all three loose forward positions, was probably be the best bet, Henry said.

"But we may want to take a different approach against Australia.

"We'll look at form and fitness and the team's plan again in a couple of weeks."

Who would start in the loose forwards against South Africa would be revealed when the team was named on Tuesday.

The current loose forwards mix includes Rodney So'oialo, Jerome Kaino, Sione Lauaki and Adam Thomson.

McCaw suffered a serious ankle injury during New Zealand's 44-12 win over England in Christchurch on June 21, ruling him out of action for an expected six weeks.

Henry said Chiefs lock Kevin O'Neill will also join the squad as cover for Ali Williams, who is recovering from a sprained ankle.

"The medical staff is reasonably positive that Ali will be available this weekend, but it is sensible to have extra cover just in case," Henry said.

He had spoken to Williams a couple of times during the week and the lock was "pretty upbeat".

"I guess when we start scrummaging and really going through the physical needs of the week, how he responds to that will be pretty interesting, but I'm confident he'll be fine."

The 2.01m and 117kg O'Neill was selected because he had shown the best Super 14 form of the locks available, Henry said.

" He was probably the best at doing the lock role, which is catching the kickoff and catching the ball at lineouts.

". . . that's why he was included in the pre-season training squad and that's why we have brought him in to cover Ali Williams."

Henry also confirmed So'oialo as the All Blacks captain in McCaw's absence.

"Rodney leads with actions more than words," Henry said.

"He has the respect of everyone in the team and plenty of experience as captain of the Hurricanes."

Henry confirmed that the 11 All Blacks who turned out for their club sides yesterday had all come through without injuries.

"(Prop) John Afoa was our question mark having not played since the Irish test (on June 7) but he got through well so we pleased about that."

New Zealand's second test against South Africa is in Dunedin on July 12.

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