Rugby Championship News

MacDonald ruled out of Bok Test





The All Blacks started their preparations for the Tri-Nations Test against the Springboks, in Christchurch on Saturday, with the news that fullback Leon MacDonald has not recovered from a groin tear and will miss the Jade Stadium encounter.

According to a report in The Press newspaper MacDonald is also a doubtful starter for the probable series decider against Australia a week later.

However, the injury news in the New Zealand camp – which assembled in Christchurch on Sunday to begin their preparations – is not nearly as bad as that coming from their South African counterparts.

Injured centres Isaia Toeava (bruised shoulder) and Conrad Smith (strained hamstring) are expected to train fully at Rugby Park from Monday, along with lock Keith Robinson (calf muscle strain).

MacDonald will be treated by the medical staff this week for the groin muscle tear which sidelined him two days before the Bledisloe Cup match in Melbourne.

A spokesman for the All Blacks management said MacDonald would be “a week-by-week proposition”, so the Bledisloe Cup decider against Australia, on Saturday week in Auckland, may also come too soon for the Crusader fullback.

MacDonald’s place in the squad has been taken by Doug Howlett, who returns after his wife gave birth to a baby boy last week.

Fellow wing Rico Gear remains with the squad and may get another shot at securing himself a spot in the World Cup squad.

Toeava will be a strong contender to start in the problematic centre position, where the All Blacks coaches have finally been able to call up Wellington’s Conrad Smith.

During Smith’s lengthy recovery from a hamstring injury, coach Graham Henry maintained that the Wellingtonian is his first choice centre after his impressive form at last year’s tour in France.

He would have been pleased that Smith followed his first club match last weekend with a solid performance for Wellington against Waikato last Friday.

“It’s not really up to me but I’d definitely be keen,” Smith told The Press.

“I’ve missed a few opportunities (with the All Blacks) already this year, the last couple of years probably, so I’d love another chance.”

Under the watchful eye of backs coach Wayne Smith, the Wellington centre came through the 38-38 draw unscathed.

“It was good to see he was physical, so I think he’ll be very happy,” the assistant All Blacks coach told the newspaper.

“His work rate was good to see because he hasn’t had a lot of footy recently and match hardness is what he’s after. He didn’t have a lot of ball come his way but he still scored a try.”
365 Digital

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