The match-ups in the backs

Luke McAlister and Joe Rokocoko face very different challenges in Saturday’s Tri-Nations match against Australia in Melbourne.

While McAlister will have the job of marking Wallaby danger-man Matt Giteau, Rokocoko will be out to show just how green his surprise opposite number Adam Ashley-Cooper, usually a centre, is on the wing.

McAlister and Giteau were in good form with the head-to-head banter at a promotional event in Melbourne on Thursday, but McAlister knows that banter is not even a start to the battle ahead.

“I’ve played against him a few times, he’s a world-class player and he’s one we are going to have to watch,” he said.

“I don’t think about him too much or them too much, we’ve got to worry about ourselves and what we do.

“I’m sure it’s the same with them. They won’t worry about us too much, they’ll want to do what they can with their team and their game plan.”

It is a rare start for McAlister, indeed rarer than many would like to see. Many of his appearances are as a replacement, from where he rarely fails to make an impact, but Saturday’s match presents him with another opportunity to nick the inside centre berth from Aaron Mauger come Rugby World Cup time.

“You can’t look back and think ‘what if?’. You’ve actually got to do it,” he said about taking the chance.

“Coming on as replacement in Durban was quite tough. But it was cool coming on with Piri [Weepu] and Leon [MacDonald] and helping out.

“It’s always exciting when you get on the track and we were down which was even more exciting.

“Once you’re out there you can feel the adrenalin coming through. It is a big adjustment but as reserves it is something we thrive on.

“Playing with Milsy [Muliaina] is going to be exciting. He’s a class act and someone I enjoy playing rugby with.”

Meanwhile Rokocoko reckons he is just hitting his stride, after re-conditioning and then an ankle injury put paid to much of his Super 14 season.

His try ten minutes from the end of a bruising encounter, from 70m out, helped him maintain his average of over a try per Test for the All Blacks, and was scored down the right wing, where he shifts to for Saturday’s match to accommodate Rico Gear.

“For most of us it feels like our season is just beginning – body-wise and mentally as well,” Rokocoko said on Thursday.

“Obviously I missed the majority of the Super 14 competition and I’m getting back into it week by week.

“Having that break can help you freshen up.

“We want a solid performance on Saturday and we know we’ll need to give it our all.

“It is big for Australia, it’s big for us too and that’s the big challenge for us to step up to another level.”

 

365 Digital

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