Tall Blacks re­lieved as Web­ster gets all-clear

The Dominion Post - - Olympic Games Countdown - BASKETBALL

confident that play­ers’ con­cerns about the venue have been al­layed.

Af­ter fall­ing weeks be­hind on con­struc­tion, or­gan­is­ers aban­doned plans to sow the turf, in­stead rolling out grass in time for a venue test event in March – and sev­eral com­pet­ing teams noted it was ob­vi­ous the grass needed more time to grow.

La­pas­set vis­ited the pitch and rated it ‘‘fan­tas­tic’’, af­ter per­son­ally hav­ing a run on it.

‘‘I’m sure it’s to­tally ready to go. It will be fan­tas­tic for the qual­ity, fan­tas­tic for the pos­si­bil­ity of run­ning, and push­ing, and tack­les.’’

Rio’s Games will end a 92-year Olympics hia­tus for rugby, and it’s the first time the sev­ens for­mat will be played in the Games.

La­pas­set ad­mits there’s still work to be done to con­vince the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee to re­tain the sport beyond Tokyo in 2020.

‘‘It’s a chal­lenge. We have to be suc­cess­ful the first time we play rugby sev­ens in Rio, we have to be suc­cess­ful on the field and off the field, we’ve con­vinced the IOC mem­bers that the story that the play­ers play [out] on the field will be fan­tas­tic.

‘‘[It’s] a big dif­fer­ence to what we had in the past, unique in the story of the Olympics, that is the story that we have to write now and, as for the fun off the field, it will be the same.’’ The Tall Blacks are breath­ing eas­ier af­ter star shoot­ing guard Corey Web­ster was cleared of serious in­jury ahead of next week’s Olympic qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment in Manila

Coach Paul Henare must have feared the worse when Web­ster hob­bled off with a calf strain in the 84-55 de­feat at the hands of Latvia in a warmup game in Riga.

He left the court in the sec­ond quar­ter and did not re­turn to the game.

How­ever Henare has con­firmed scans have cleared the team’s lead­ing scorer of serious in­jury and that all go­ing to plan he would be fit to line up in the six-team tour­na­ment in Manila (July 6-10) where the Tall Blacks will shoot for one spot at Rio.

‘‘At this stage he’s had an ini­tial scan and been cleared of any ma­jor struc­tural dam­age in the mus­cle so it’s good news for us, but there’s still some work to do and a re­cov­ery process be­fore we hit the track in Manila in just over a week’s time,’’ Henare told Ra­dio Sport.

‘‘He was just start­ing to find his stride with how he was play­ing and his match fit­ness so the timing is un­for­tu­nate. When Corey went down we strug­gled to put points on the board – he’s such an influential guy on the floor in terms of our of­fence.’’

The Tall Blacks’ prepa­ra­tions had been go­ing solidly un­til they hit a speed bump in Latvia, los­ing to both Iran and the hosts, as well as see­ing Web­ster pick up the un­timely in­jury.

But Henare said Web­ster’s ab­sence from the fi­nal pre-Manila hitout would give him a chance to as­sess his other back­court op­tions be­fore the go­ing gets su­per serious in the Philip­pines.

Corey Web­ster will be a key fig­ure for the Tall Blacks next week.

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