Ellison set to return for Highlanders
April 30, 2013
Highlanders' coach Jamie Joseph says Tamati Ellison's experience will benefit the younger players © Getty Images
Tamati Ellison is set to return to the Highlanders' line-up for their match against the Sharks in Dunedin on Saturday, a month ahead of schedule.
The All Blacks player had shoulder surgery before Christmas and was not expected back until after the June break for the side's Test series against France. But he has worked hard at his rehabilitation and head coach Jamie Joseph said Ellison would be considered for selection against the Durban-based side at the weekend.
Ellison is likely to play at centre outside fellow All Black Ma'a Nonu in his first outing since the Test against Scotland in Edinburgh on November 11 last year. He injured his foot ligaments in that match and did not play again on tour but it was not until he returned to New Zealand that a scan revealed a dislocation and break at the top of his shoulder bone. He had suffered the injury in the ITM Cup's Championship final against Counties-Manukau.
"Tamati is a quality player but he has had a long time out of the game and it is not going to be easy for him to come straight back in and perform," Joseph said. "But he is an experienced player who gives confidence to the younger guys around him."
Ellison, 30, was the Highlanders outstanding back last year and played in 15 of the club's 16 games. He also played six games for Otago and has four caps for the All Blacks.
But the Highlanders still face an injury problem on the right wing with both Kade Poki and Buxton Popoali'i unlikely starters on Saturday. Poki re-injured his ribs against the Brumbies while Popoali'i has a foot injury which, if not cured by rest, may require an operation and end his season.
Centre Jason Emery might well be shifted to the right wing against the Sharks with Tony Ensor a newcomer at Super Rugby level.
Other players who will not be considered for the weekend are Nasi Manu (foot), Mose Tuiali'i (knee), Lima Sopoaga (ankle), Brayden Mitchell (shoulder) and Shaun Treeby (hamstring). The winless Highlanders, who are coming off the bye, now face a five-match mini-season before the June Test window.
They play the Sharks before embarking on a three-match tour, with games against the Southern Kings (Port Elizabeth), Bulls (Pretoria) and Western Force (Perth) and they return to play the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on June 1.
"We just need to try to simplify things and make a fresh start," Joseph said.
Emphasis would be placed on improving the set piece, which was a weakness against the Crusaders in Christchurch two weeks ago.
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