New Zealand All Blacks Rugby News

Filipo rewarded for his ‘patience’


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Reuben Thorne will captain the All Blacks in the one-off test against Canada in Hamilton on Saturday, a team that will also see lock Ross Filipo “rewarded” with his debut cap.

Thorne will captain his country in the absence of Richie McCaw, who is being “rested” on the replacement bench on Saturday.

Filipo will be joined by fellow Wellington-based forward, prop John Schwalger, in the debut list for Saturday.

The 28-year-old Filipo will earn his cap for the All Blacks after being called in to the squad last Sunday. This is just reward for his patience, after he had turned down the opportunity to represent Samoa on the international stage.

His call-up and that of fellow lock Greg Rawlinson follows injuries to Keith Robinson and Ali Williams.

Filipo, who started this year ranked eighth on the All Blacks selectors’ list of locking options, saw his stocks rise through season-ending knee injuries to James Ryan and Jason Eaton, as well as the misfortune of Williams (broken jaw) and Robinson (calf strain) in last Saturday’s 61-10 win over France.

One of the most consistent forwards in this year’s Super 14, Filipo employed his 115kg frame to good effect in all 14 of the Crusaders’ games. He has also been impressive in his three outings for the Junior All Blacks in their Pacific Nations Cup campaign.

He admitted he had thoughts of playing for Samoa after the Crusaders bowed out in the Super 14 semi-finals last month.

“I’m in my late 20s and you start thinking about options, whether I should go to a World Cup or not,” he said.

“I’m glad I held out because I’ve always wanted to be an All Black. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my dream.”

Meanwhile wing Rico Gear has joined the All Blacks and Ma’a Nonu has been released to join the Junior All Blacks in Dunedin.

The return of Gear, who has played in 17 Tests for the All Blacks, is prompted by impending paternity leave for wing Doug Howlett, who will not travel to South Africa next week.

Similarly, lock Chris Jack is unavailable for the test against Canada and the All Blacks’ opening match in the Tri-Nations series – against the Springboks in Durban, because of paternity leave.

“The guys need to put their families first,” All Black coach Graham Henry said.

“We support their decision to be with their partners. Ross [Filipo] will start this weekend’s test and Rico has plenty of experience in our environment. So they will be up to speed before we start the Tri-Nations.”

Mils Muliaina returns from injury to play at fullback, with Howlett and Sitiveni Sivivatu the wings.

Conrad Smith, also ruled out with a hamstring injury against France, has been bracketed at centre with Luke McAlister.

Fly-half Daniel Carter is also back from injury.

“We’ve got some new combinations for the test in Hamilton which is a chance to further our depth and options, and gives us something of a fresh challenge.”

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Conrad Smith/Luke McAlister, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Byron Kelleher, 8 Jerry Collins, 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Reuben Thorne (c), 5 Ross Filipo, 4 Troy Flavell, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Carl Hayman, 18 Rodney So’oialo, 19 Richie McCaw, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 McAlister/Rico Gear, 22 Leon MacDonald.

Date: Saturday, 16 June
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Christophe Berdos (France)
Touch judges: Craig Joubert (South Africa), George Ayoub (Australia)
Television match official: Paul Marks (Australia)
Assessor: Bob Francis (New Zealand)


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