All Blacks cot­ton wool Canty loosie Cullen Grace

The Timaru Herald - - Sport - Robert van Royen

The All Blacks have wrapped Can­ter­bury loose for­ward Cullen Grace in cot­ton wool, de­spite fel­low rookie Tupou Vaa’i be­ing re­leased to play for Taranaki.

The Ti­maru prod­uct was a prime can­di­date to be cut loose, given the 20-year-old has al­ready missed a lot of rugby this year with a bro­ken thumb, and is un­likely to be rushed into Ian Fos­ter’s 23 for the two home Bledis­loe Cup tests next month.

How­ever, Can­ter­bury weren’t granted per­mis­sion to pick him in their team to face Hawke’s Bay in Napier tonight. Vaa’i was named in Taranaki’s XV for to­mor­row af­ter­noon’s Ran­furly Shield de­fence against Otago.

Mi­nus Auck­land lock Pa­trick Tuip­u­lotu, who needs min­utes af­ter bat­tling an Achilles ‘‘nig­gle’’ since the North v South match on Septem­ber 5, front­line All Blacks aren’t be­ing re­leased.

‘‘To be hon­est, we planned not to have the All Blacks, al­though there was an in­di­ca­tion they might re­lease some,’’ Can­ter­bury co-coach Mark Brown said. ‘‘Cully has had a cou­ple of big games, and he was a bit banged up af­ter the week­end, he was ex­tremely phys­i­cal.’’

Brown was re­fer­ring to Grace’s com­bat­ive per­for­mance in Can­ter­bury’s 23-22 Ran­furly Shield loss to Taranaki last Satur­day, be­fore the All Blacks held a three-day camp in Whakata¯ne this week.

An­other three-day camp is slated for Hamil­ton next week, be­fore the All Blacks base them­selves in Welling­ton ahead of the open­ing Bledis­loe Cup test at Sky Sta­dium on Oc­to­ber 11.

But, rather than ask Grace, who missed much of Su­per Rugby Aotearoa with a bro­ken thumb, to keep work­ing on his craft with Can­ter­bury, the All Blacks are happy for him to sit idle this week­end. What a dif­fer­ence a week makes. With the blan­ket avail­abil­ity of All Blacks ka­put, Can­ter­bury has made 10 changes to their XV as they eye a bounce-back win.

Cru­sader Whetukamok­amo Dou­glas re­places Grace at No 8, and will cap­tain the side with reg­u­lar skip­per Reed Prin­sep on the bench.

Re­cent Blues sign­ing Sam Darry, a 2m Christchur­ch raised lock, will make his Mitre 10 Cup de­but along­side Mitchell Dun­shea.

Tom San­ders, one of the stand­out play­ers in the North v South match ear­lier this month, also fea­tures for the first time this year, as does High­lander Ngane Pu­ni­vai, who re­places brother Isa­iah and will start at cen­tre. With Richie Mo’unga now on All Blacks duty, an­other face un­seen at the top level since March is back in the frame.

That’s first five-eighth Fer­gus Burke, who made his Cru­saders de­but in their fi­nal Su­per Rugby match – against the Sun­wolves in Bris­bane – be­fore Covid-19 scrapped the com­pe­ti­tion.

Gis­borne-born Burke didn’t fea­ture in Su­per Rugby Aotearoa, in­stead turn­ing out for Can­ter­bury Univer­sity, be­fore dam­ag­ing his shoul­der at the back end of July.

He got through 20 min­utes of pre­sea­son ac­tion against Tas­man ear­lier this month, but has had to wait an age to get back on the big stage. ‘‘The Sun­wolves was a great op­por­tu­nity for me, it was prob­a­bly the most en­joy­able game of my life, to be fair, a de­but for the Cru­saders,’’ Burke said.

‘‘Since then, I’ve had the best first five in the world in front of me in Richie Mo’unga, who is play­ing un­be­liev­able, so he’s been play­ing a lot of min­utes.’’

Burke will play be­hind fel­low Cru­sader Brett Cameron tonight, and knows when the chance to fi­nally get on the pad­dock ar­rives he needs to take his op­por­tu­nity.

That’s when the for­mer New Zealand un­der-20s rep­re­sen­ta­tive will show what he’s been learn­ing from Mo’unga.

‘‘He’s just a big one about I’m Fer­gus Burke, he is Richie Mo’unga. Don’t try and be him. He didn’t try and be DC [Dan Carter],’’ Burke said.

‘‘He brings his own style to the game, he just keeps get­ting at me, ‘be your­self, you’re a dif­fer­ent 10 than I am’. That’s a big one for me.’’


Cullen Grace has been rested and will not play against Hawkes Bay.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.