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Henry hails impact of his returning stars
Scrum.com
July 9, 2009
Richie McCaw of the All Blacks smiles after scoring a try during the Bledisloe Cup match between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks at Hong Kong Stadium in Hong Kong, China on November 1, 2008.
Inspirational All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, is set to return from injury for the Tri Nations © Getty Images
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All Blacks coach Graham Henry has welcomed the return to fitness of experienced campaigners Richie McCaw, Rodney So'oialo and Sitiveni Sivivatu and praised their impact on the attitude of his squad.

Henry, whose Tri-Nations squad have just completed a tough two-day training camp, is hoping the trio's added experience will provide the leadership that was lacking in their recent Test encounters with France and Italy.

"They've made a difference already, those three guys ... because of their experience. Their confidence rubs off on other people they know what they're about, they've been here before, they know what is required so they add a lot to the unit," the Kiwi supremo said. "They know what they need to do to be in the best shape for next Saturday. Hopefully they'll get through this Saturday."

Henry views their influence as crucial ahead of the Bledisloe Cup and Tri-Nations opener against Australia in Auckland on July 18. McCaw and No.8 So'oialo's last competitive outing was nearly seven weeks ago in the Super 14 semi-finals when McCaw sustained a knee injury and So'oialo was ordered to undergo rehabilitation on a long-term neck injury.

The squad played an intense 40 minute 10-a-side inter-squad game as part of their session on Thursday and afterwards McCaw said that he felt "100 per cent."

"It's more the lungs that are going to take a while to come right," McCaw said. "It took a wee while for the guys to start getting into each other but once a couple of good shots went in, everyone was into it."

McCaw has built a reputation of being able return from injury and slot straight back in at the high level that he's renowned for and he's confident of being able to do so again.

"The first couple of games (back) are hard work but you accept that and just get out and get into it. I guess (I have) a bit of experience, having gone through it a couple of times," said the All Blacks captain. "In a team like the All Blacks, you've got pretty good fellas around you and you only need to do your job. If you get that right, you know you'll perform reasonably well."

Players who have been short of game-time have been turning out for their clubs in a bid to return to fitness and hone their game ahead of the Tri-Nations.

Sivivatu returned to club rugby last week and McCaw and So'oialo will do so this weekend. Six other players are confirmed to be playing for their clubs on Saturday - Brendon Leonard, Bryn Evans, John Afoa, Owen Franks, Wyatt Crockett and Aled de Malmanche.

Luke McAlister, who will play at fly-half against the Wallabies, has only a 50/50 chance of playing for his club after suffering from a back strain that saw him sit out the training camp.

"He's made some big improvements in the last couple of days. He'll only play (club rugby) if he's right," said Henry.

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