Fiji thrashing no help for All Blacks selectors
June 10, 2005

The nature of tonight's 91-0 romp against Fiji has made it no easier for the All Blacks rugby selectors to finalise their 26-man squad for the three-test Lions series on Sunday.

Fringe contenders such as winger Doug Howlett, lock James Ryan, hooker Derren Witcombe and flanker Sione Lauaki were impressive but the match was so far removed from what the All Blacks will face agains the Lions it served little purpose.

Coach Graham Henry and his selectors have a surfeit of outside back options, only highlighted by the four tries on debut to Sitiveni Sivivatu and double to fellow-winger Howlett.

It will be hard to leave them out, potentially giving no room for quality candidates such Blues winger Joe Rokocoko, Chiefs fullback Sosene Anesi, or Crusaders fullback Leon MacDonald if Henry names 11 backs as he has indicated.

If the selectors deem Mauger is sufficient first five-eighth cover for Daniel Carter, there will also be no space for All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens or the Highlanders' Nick Evans.

The makeup of the team may rest on what the selectors see from certain New Zealand Maori players in their match against the Lions at Hamilton tomorrow.

MacDonald and winger Rico Gear will be under the microscope, as will Crusaders teammate Corey Flynn at hooker, following a muscular debut performance tonight from Witcombe.

Likewise a promising display tonight from Ryan will have improved his prospects, putting pressure on Maori captain Jono Gibbes if the selectors choose just three locks.

An extra lose forward would probably open the way for Lauaki, on raw talent alone.

Possible All Blacks squad to face the Lions:

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

Forwards: Rodney So'oialo, Mose Tuiali'i, Richie McCaw, Marty Holah, Jerry Collins, Sione Lauaki, Jono Gibbes, Ali Williams, Chris Jack, Carl Hayman, Campbell Johnstone, Greg Somerville, Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Corey Flynn.

NZPA

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