Flavell and Thorne square off

When New Zealand coach Graham Henry unveiled his 2007 All Blacks, and included prodigal son Troy Flavell back in the national ranks, a telling competition for a World Cup spot was revealed.

Henry has already said earlier that there would only be room for three specialist locks in his World Cup squad, and it seems that Troy Flavell and Reuben Thorne will be fighting for that lock and blindsider flank role that Henry sees necessary to a balanced squad.

Flavell is a lock who can play on the blindside whilst Thorne is the reverse.

Paradoxically, it is Flavell who is more of the attacking player, who enjoys running with the ball and adding a touch of panache to his armoury.

Both players are in the current squad, but the thinking is that when number eight Sione Lauaki returns from knee surgery, the blockbusting loose forward will force his way into the squad at one of the two aforementioned players’ expense.

With Jerry Collins assuming less of the strike-running duties these days as in yesteryear, Lauaki might fulfill a need in the New Zealand squad for a dynamic running loose forward.

Speaking to the press at the squad’s announcement, All Blacks forward coach Steve Hansen reinforced the thinking that the French series is set to answer some questions for the selectors in regards to the fourth lock replacement.

Hansen asserted, “We don’t see [Flavell] as specialist lock, but in saying that he’s probably more comfortable playing lock than he is at number six.”

Hansen also highlighted the cruciality of the upcoming Tests for former skipper Reuben Thorne.

“This series is going to be interesting for Reuben,” said Hansen.

“We probably see him as a six who can possibly play lock. We want to find out if he can do that at international level. We may try that out in this series.”

But both Hansen and Henry did reveal that Flavell would need to cover a lot of ground in order to become the finished international article.

“He’s going to be someone who’s going to be a challenge to coach, in a positive way,” Hansen told New Zealand website Yahoo!Xtra. “Because he’s such a good athlete.

“But there’s things in his game that we need to fix, and he needs to fix them. And I’m looking forward to that. One thing I know about Troy is he really wants to be there.

“He’s shown us that in his form in the Super 14, though it probably petered off a little bit near the end. Some of that was based on a bit of fatigue — he played just about every game and it’s a tough tournament to play every game, and to hold your form.

Graham Henry spoke of the specific facets in his game that requires Flavell’s attention.

“There’s some work to do on individual skills and individual concentration as well. Physical presence gives you a bit of backbone but it doesn’t negate the fact you have to play with accuracy, and that is a concern for [Flavell].”

The selectors, in naming their squad, revealed their confidence in the controversy-embroiled Ali Williams.

“It’s a Blues-Ali situation and they’re working their way through that,” Graham Henry said.

“Ali Williams was an excellent player in this group last year and we expect him to even improve on that [this year].”

Highly respected All Black selector and former national captain Sir Brian Lochore also spoke glowingly of Williams.

“I know Ali very well, and it’s not a problem,” said Lochore..

“Last year he came in and worked bloody hard and played extremely well. In the last two years he’s played very, very well for us and he’s been good within our community. I don’t see any change whatever.

“I don’t want to get involved with what’s happened here, but Ali in our environment is fine.”

Keith Robinson is the third specialist lock of the squad.


365 Digital

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