Tall Blacks relieved as Webster gets all-clear
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.