Slade on trial for Tri-Nations spot
July 6, 2011
Slade made his latest comeback from injury last weekend © Getty Images
All Blacks hopeful Colin Slade will come under the spotlight as he continues his comeback from injury in Canterbury's pre-season clash with Wellington on Friday.
New Zealand head coach Graham Henry and his assistant Wayne Smith will be keen observers at the Petone Recreation Ground to assess whether the fly-half deserves the nod for their Tri-Nations squad that will be announced in Sunday.
Henry's other assistant, Steve Hansen, told reporters after a second two-day training camp drew to a close in Wellington today, that they had all but nailed down their selections for the 30-man squad but would check on Slade's form before confirming their team sheet.
"We'll make some decisions after that," he said, adding that how Crusaders players came through Super Rugby finale against the Reds could also influence the make-up of the squad. "There's always opportunities, we don't know what's going to happen on Saturday in Brisbane. There could be some injuries to guys we'd like to select so there's always opportunities to keep impressing," he said.
Slade, who is making his comeback from a second broken jaw, faces stiff competition from Aaron Cruden to be Carter's deputy and is likely to be up against fellow All Blacks contenders Neemia Tialata, Piri Weepu, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith and Victor Vito.
New Zealand sevens coach Gordon Tietjens today put the backs and loose forwards through another lung-busting workout, but Liam Messam limped out of the session early with an ankle injury, while Hosea Gear was also missing with a hamstring complaint.
But Hansen said both were in contention to be named in the squad which may feature players who have been sidelined by injury. "He's (Messam) just rolled an ankle so he'll be right.
"He's (Gear) a current All Black so he's clearly going to be in contention. Hamstrings come right eventually so hopefully his is good enough to come right over the next few weeks. If they can't play in the Tri-Nations we won't name them, but if there's a possibility that they could play in the Tri-Nations then they'll get named if that's who we want," he said.
Prop Tony Woodcock, utility back Isaia Toeava and fullback Israel Dagg have all spent lengthy spells off the field with foot, hip and thigh injuries respectively and Hansen said he had little to report on their status.
"They're all making good progress and we're expecting them back at some stage, but other than being able to say they're making good progress there's not much more that we can give you," he said.
Hansen gave little away on the possible make-up of the squad but appeared to rule out the claims of Highlanders forward Jarrad Hoeata saying they were not looking for a lock-cum-blindside flanker in the squad to be named at 4pm on Sunday.
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