Battering ram Laukai made his point with McCaw
NZPA
July 22, 2007

Showing up Richie McCaw as a mere mortal strengthened human wrecking ball Sione Lauaki's already imposing claims for a rugby World Cup call-up.

The bruising Waikato and Chiefs loose forward's inclusion in the 29-man squad was not totally unexpected today -- a fact borne out by the support he had for an international recall for the first time since the 2005 northern hemisphere tour.

Troubled by knee injuries and not the sport's most reliable trainer, Lauaki made the cut at Troy Flavell's expense partially on the recommendation of McCaw.

The All Blacks captain experienced first hand what the intimidating 26-year-old could produce in broken play when the Chiefs ended the Crusaders' 26-match unbeaten home record in the final round in May.

Lauaki's propensity for muscular carnage was already well documented but his performance at Jade Stadium certainly left an impression on the right people.

"I felt the wrath of what he can do," McCaw explained after the team naming at Eden Park.

"He's got the ability to have people worried about how they're going to get him to ground, whereas perhaps other times you worry about what's happening next."

McCaw, no slouch in contact situations himself, rated Lauaki as the hardest opponent to bring down.

"He's the toughest man to tackle when he's got the ball standing still because everybody comes and stops -- and that's where he gets his momentum.

"If he does what he did to me when we played the Chiefs .... he's a pretty menacing ball carrier so to have someone in the team like that is great."

All Blacks coach Graham Henry consulted McCaw after the Chiefs 30-24 win, although he admitted today Lauaki was already in the frame for selection.

"We talked to Richie and he said he played very well that night," Henry said.

The key now was keeping the enforcer fit and ensure he logs enough game time between two World Cup training camps.

Although he was prominent against the Crusaders, Lauaki has been plagued by knee problems this season, requiring cartilage to be tidied up on both joints.

His rehabilitation has been carefully managed and although there were public calls for him to feature in the Tri-Nations, he made a lower key return with the Junior All Blacks.

The 50-0 drubbing of Australia A in Dunedin on June 16 signalled his return and he will now play the opening three rounds of Waikato's Air New Zealand Cup defence which starts against Manawatu in Palmerston North on Thursday.

Lauaki played the last of his seven tests against Scotland at Murrayfield at the end on 2005 and dropped out of favour last year although his belligerence has always been seen as an asset if handled correctly.

"As everyone knows, he's a marvellous ball carrier," Henry said.

"He played some exceptional rugby near the end of the Super 14 and he will add potency to what we're doing -- he also destroys people on defence, and that's helpful," Henry added.

Although Lauaki is unlikely to barge his way into the starting loose forward trio come the sudden death phase in France, his impact off the bench could be significant.

He was simply happy to play any role in France after expressing surprise at getting that welcome phone call from All Blacks manager Darren Shand yesterday.

"I didn't really expect a call, I thought I was dreaming or something," he said.

Lauaki felt he may have been in calculations but a twist to his right knee during Waikato training last week threatened to extend his injury woes.

Fortunately he was given the all clear by a specialist in Auckland yesterday -- his first piece of good news.

Now, having not played for a month he was looking forward to the early stages of Waikato's campaign, admitting he was a shade over his ideal playing weight of 119kg.

"I'm a few kgs off, but once I start playing, it should be all right."

Meanwhile, he had no particular memories of the Chiefs' triumph that was a catalyst for his recall.

"I was pretty good, I guess," he said.

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