Rugby Championship News

Leonard’s last-gasp call for selection





There weren’t all that many All Black positives to come out of Saturday’s 33-6 win over South Africa, but one may be the form of srum-half Brendon Leonard, who is staking a late claim for Rugby World Cup selection.

Leonard was the spark that ignited a damp New Zealand performance, scoring his team’s first try and getting the backs going where previously they had been bogged down in midfield.

He confessed he had enjoyed an advantage over Piri Weepu from the bench, simply from being able to watch carefully and note where the Boks defence had been weaker.

“I watched the first 50 minutes and saw a few areas that I might be able to target around the South African defensive rucks,” he told the NZPA.

“My natural game is about running straight and hard. I’m not the biggest guy so I’ve got to run hard and make the most of it.

Graham Henry and his counterparts have often spoken about the 22-man game during this Tri-Nations, and although Leonard’s performance suggested he was good enough to claim the number nine jersey as his own, he said he was happy to play the ‘impact’ role.

“It’s probably where the game is going, it’s about impact players coming off the bench,” he said.

“I guess I’m what Ted [coach Graham Henry] is looking for in various test matches.

“If I can maintain my strengths and work on my weaknesses, hopefully I can put even a bit more pressure on Byron and Piri.”

Meanwhile, Saturday’s reserve utility back Nick Evans – who also scored a try in Saturday’s match – also said that the bench was being used specifically to kill off close games.

“I think you saw that when Brendon Leonard went out there, he did that, and all the guys who went in there, went and made a spark,” he told reporters, saying he was happy to be patient on the bench.

“I just try and make the most of opportunities when I do get them.

“It is frustrating that I might not get as much game time but I have got to resolve to myself that I am ready when I am needed.

“You have to prepare really well and do what I need to during the week.

Evans is seen usually as the back-up to Dan Carter at fly-half, and with Carter going through something of a dip in form at the moment, Evans proffered his support for his under-fire team-mate.

“He’s been working really hard, and that is a credit to him,” said Evans.

“We obviously all go through form slumps, but he’s been doing the hard yards on and off the field and things will start to pay off for him.

“I think you saw at the weekend that he was back to his best and he’ll probably keep getting better.”
365 Digital

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