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Craig Dowd
Craig Dowd | Columnist Index
Craig Dowd played 60 Tests for New Zealand between 1993 and 2000, including in two World Cups, and he was part of the All Blacks team that won their first series in South Africa in 1996. He played for the Blues and Auckland in New Zealand domestic rugby, and for Wasps in England from 2001 to 2005. In 2009, he coached North Harbour in the ITM Cup. More recently has been a SKY Television comments man.
Craig Dowd
Kieran Read's health outweighs needs of country
Craig Dowd
May 9, 2014
Craig Dowd will be happy if Kieran Read is omitted from the All Blacks training group on health grounds © Getty Images
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It will be interesting to see how the All Blacks selectors approach the situation with Kieran Read's concussion worries when naming their training squad for the England series next week.

Read will miss another round of Super Rugby for the Crusaders this week, and some really hard thinking has to be done here. Basically, a player's health outweighs the needs of the country. It is only a game we are talking about after all and someone's health is important.

It is great that there is such a focus on the issue, and involving an All Blacks star; the issue when it has arisen in the past hasn't always involved a high-profile player, and for that reason hasn't attracted the attention that it should have. Let's face it, three head knocks in a season are grounds for ending a career. It is too serious to overlook the reality of the situation and say, 'He looks OK'. It is such a fine line and in some ways I think the old approach of a mandatory three-week stand down had a lot going for it.

While there are all manner of tests they can use now, those tests can be faked by purposely giving a bad baseline test. Rory Lamont explained previously, in an exclusive article for ESPN, how players do this. And if a player gets back into a game after faking a test, and then gets concussed again, it could end his career. It is a very serious question the selectors have to consider.

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It is likely that Jerome Kaino could fit the bill at No.8. He is the second-best No.8 in the country. Victor Vito shouldn't be overlooked because he has been playing well, and in the meantime Steven Luatua can't get a look in. And if you have a loose forward combination of Kaino, Liam Messam and Richie McCaw, with Sam Cane on the bench, that is not a bad-looking unit.

Hooker is a position that will also be interesting in the squad naming. Keven Mealamu will clearly be named, but I am worried for his body. Those calves of his have been causing problems and they seem to be going all the time. He could go to the first training camp and have them go again.

When they take apprentices on end-of-year tours it should be in positions that are needed, like hookers.

Dane Coles will clearly be in the squad, while Cory Flynn shouldn't be overlooked as he has been in good form. But somebody like Liam Coltman should also be looking to step up, maybe as a wider member.

There will be some interest also in what the selectors do at first five-eighth. They will rush Aaron Cruden back into the squad, but it may be that Beauden Barrett starts the first Test with Cruden on the bench. A third player could also be named, and, if so, it will be interesting to see whether they go back to Colin Slade, which would be wrong; we should be looking ahead.

With that in mind they could look at Lima Sopoaga, who has been exciting this year, or they could call on Tom Taylor again. Taylor is also something of a utility back in any case.

Outside five-eighth, there will be no surprise when Malakai Fekitoa is included. His form demands his selection, not only in the training squad, but in the final squad for the series.

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