Cory Jane is likely to start ahead of Joe Rokocoko for New Zealand in Saturday’s Test against Australia while Dan Carter will probably line up at flyhalf.
Reports from the New Zealand media suggest Rokocoko had a good game for Auckland, but that won’t be enough to convince coach Graham Henry that he deserves a start in Sydney. Jane lacks the game breaking ability of Rokocoko but has a superior positional game and is a strong defender.
Jane was good against the Wallabies in the Tri-Nations opener, but lost his place to Rokocoko for the two-Test series in South Africa, where latter was decidedly ordinary.
Meanwhile, while Henry has remained coy on whether he will start Carter, it appears increasingly likely that Stephen Donald will make way for the returning pivot.
There was a suggestion that they would be paired as the 10-12 axis with Carter slotting in at 12, where he began his Test career, but the prospect of seeing how the errant Ma’a Nonu fares with Carter on his inside will be enough to convince the Blacks’ selectors to retain faith in him.
Further reports indicate that there won’t be any further changes to the side that fronted the Springboks in Durban despite a number of their senior players delivering below par performances.
The lock pair of Brad Thorn and Isaac Ross were schooled by Victor Matfield and co, and indeed by Nathan Sharpe, in their matches to date, but there just doesn’t seem to be better options at the Blacks’ disposal. Furthermore they are expected to field the same loose trio that did duty in South Africa.
Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said the fact that his side and the Wallabies both come off defeats to the Springboks makes victory in Saturday’s Test crucial to their title prospects.
‘What the last couple of results for both of us means is that it ups [the pressure] a little more,’ McCaw told rugbyheaven.co.nz.
‘I guess from the contest of the Tri Nations – it might even be out our control now – but we have got to … if we are going to be a chance, we have to win the last three games. And we have to start [winning on] Saturday.’
McCaw conceded that if they lost the Test they would be out of contention for the Tri-Nations title. ‘Yeah … I guess from our point of view, the Bledisloe Cup is still on the line as well,’ he added.
‘That is the trophy that we – and the Wallabies as well – value pretty highly. So this is another game in the series. It is a big part of it. [But] you are right. If we don’t win this week, the Tri Nations is all but gone I would suggest.’
Blacks coach Graham Henry was under no illusions about the magnitude of the Test.
‘It will be good to play in this part of the world, I suppose, instead of over there [in South Africa],” Henry said.
‘That just means both sides are pretty desperate aren’t they? They haven’t done so well so far in the Tri Nations. It’s early days yet, and so both sides will be desperate for a win.’