All Black selectors probably unswayed
June 3, 2005

The Possibles beat the Probables 37-32 in the All Blacks trial in Napier on Friday.

A willing performance from several trialists here tonight may not be enough to force the hands of the All Blacks rugby selectors before they name a 22-man squad tomorrow to face Fiji in a week.

Two-try trial stars Sitiveni Sivivatu and Ma'a Nonu merely confirmed their enormous talent while no other fringe contender produced the sort of "pick me" game they may have needed.

One exception could be Chiefs and Probables loose forward Sione Lauaki, who combined yard-making runs with some heavy defence.

However, the selectors may find it hard to find a place for him by removing either incumbents Rodney So'oialo and Jerry Collins, or Canterbury No 8 Mose Tuiali'i, in whom they have invested much.

Another to narrowly miss out would be Probables captain and No 8 Stephen Bates.

Some incisive moments from Probables first five-eighth Nick Evans and fullback Sosene Anesi may not be enough to usurp established names either although Evans may yet win selection if the shoulder injury that ruled out fullback Mils Muliaina tonight continues to plague him.

Teammate Byron Kelleher ensured the halfback debate involving him and Justin Marshall would rage on for another week with a strong performance behind the Probables pack.

Assuming he is not affected by an injury that forced him from the field early in the second half, there will be huge interest in who is wearing No 9 when the starting lineup is announced on Tuesday.

The unavailability of New Zealand Maori forwards Marty Holah, Jono Gibbes and Carl Hayman -- all likely to make the squad to face the Lions -- creates some openings in the pack.

In the front row, young Canterbury prop Campbell Johnstone did his chances of higher honours no harm in a dominant Probables scrum.

However, a temporary replacement for Hayman against Fiji could be his Otago teammate Carl Hoeft, who would back up Greg Somerville and Tony Woodcock against Fiji. Hoeft has some limited experience on the tighthead side.

The battle at lock was even tonight but the consistent debut Super 12 season of Highlanders' leaper James Ryan may see him win the third locking berth behind Chris Jack and Ali Williams.

The battle between Otago teammates Josh Blackie and Craig Newby was also tight, with Blackie possibly winning the nod.

Possible All Blacks squad for the test against Fiji at North Harbour Stadium on June 10:

Backs: Mils Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Tana Umaga (captain), Aaron Mauger, Daniel Carter, Justin Marshall, Byron Kelleher.

Forwards: Rodney So'oialo, Mose Tuiali'i, Richie McCaw, Josh Blackie, Jerry Collins, Chris Jack, Ali Williams, James Ryan, Greg Somerville, Tony Woodcock, Carl Hoeft, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore.

Possibles 37 (Ma'a Nonu 2, Ben Atiga, Scott Hamilton, Brent Ward tries; Stephen Donald pen, 3 con, Jimmy Gopperth pen) Probables 32 (Sitiveni Sivivatu 2, Doug Howlett, Rodney So'oialo tries; Nick Evans 2 pen, 3 con).

Halftime: Probables 17-5.

NZPA

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