New Zealand wrap (Wed)

Keo.co.za brings you the latest news from the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour.

ABs wary of Barnes at breakdown

The All Blacks are hoping Wayne Barnes’s breakdown officiating will be up to scratch and have offered him some free advice.

Barnes became one of the most hated men in New Zealand after his performance in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final between the All Blacks and France. The Englishman will handle New Zealand’s Test against Scotland this weekend, and Henry hopes he will be vigilant.

“The interpretation at the breakdown was refereed well in Hong Kong,” Henry told rugbyheaven.co.nz. “That is, the tackler has to get away from the ball, so he tackles and has to get on his feet. He can’t impede the ball.

“If the referee concentrates on that factor first most of our problems at the breakdown will be alleviated. Then he needs to look at the next guys arriving and if they arrive through the gate and they stay on their feet.”

New Zealand will field a new back row with Adam Thomson replacing Richie McCaw at No 7. Henry expects the breakdown battle to be immense, but his comments indicate Barnes may not be up to the task.

“I realise it’s a hard area to referee because there’s a lot of bodies being fired in there in a very short period of time. If he’s got a very clear vision of what’s required there it works. It worked at the weekend and both sides got reasonably quick ball.

“The biggest challenge is for the referee to be there, so he can actually see that. If he can be there and see that it helps.”

Henry calls rotation a golden opportunity

The All Blacks management believe the Scotland Test will provide the fringe New Zealand players an opportunity to develop at the highest level.

The game marks the first of the All Blacks’ Grand Slam tour, and after beating Australia in Hong Kong Grahm Henry has made wholesale changes. Forwards coach Steve Hansen believes the new-look pack won’t let the visitors down, singling out loose forwards Kieran Read and Liam Messam as bright prospects.

“Kieran Read is an exciting player. He could have easily played Tests earlier in the year but Adam Thomson got that spot. Adam has played well and has grown all the time. Then Liam comes in who is just a natural athlete.

“We think Liam will end up being a specialist eight and Kieran will be a specialist six.”

The All Blacks secured the Grand Slam the last time they toured in 2006, and although this is still a priority so is player development.

“You want to try to get potential All Blacks of the future on the park as well,” said Henry. “So we think we have picked the Test team to play well this weekend and hopefully they will play well enough.”

More to follow…