All Blacks can seal Rugby Cham­pi­onship

Fo­cus to be on Bar­rett’s and debu­tant Har­ris ’s per­for­mances

Weekend Witness - - Sport - Morale high in Sri Lank an camp ahead of World Cup

NEW Zealand can seal their third suc­ces­sive R ugby Cham­pi­onship ti­tle with a bonus­point win ag ainst the Pu­mas in La Plata to­day, but the longterm fo­cus will be on the per­for­mances of fl yhalf B eau­den B ar­rett and rookie hooker Nathan Har­ris.

Steve Hansen’s side lead the an­nual south­ern hemi­sphere tour­na­ment on 16 points with South Africa and Aus­tralia, who meet in Cape Town, on 10 apiece.

An ex­tra­point win by scor­ing four or mor e trie s, some­thing the All Blacks have ac­com­plished in their two pre­vi­ous Rugby Cham­pi­onship clashes in Ar­gentina, will en­sure they clinch the ti­tle be­fore their fi­nal show­down against the Spring­bok s in J ohannesburg on Oct ober 4.

The long­term fo­cus, how­ever, will be on the per­for­mance of Bar­rett and whether Har­ris makes his Test de­but off the bench aft er v eteran Keven Mealamu moved into the start­ing side for t oday’s mat ch.

Bar­rett will mak e jus t his sec ond start in the pi votal role, three weeks after his first — also against the Pu­mas — where he im­pressed with his game man­age­ment, dis tri­b­u­tion, run­ning and t ac­ti­cal kick­ing but had a poor goal­kick­ing perf or­mance.

The 23­year­old missed four shots at goal in Napier and had been ex­pected to again back up Aaron Cru­den be­fore the W aikato Chief s pla ymaker was dumped for the fi­nal two matches after he missed the flight to Ar­gentina fol­low­ing a night out drink­ing .

Solid per­for­mances by Bar­rett at La Plata and El­lis P ark c ould pr ovide Hansen with a se­lec­tion dilemma ahead of their Bledis­loe C up clash with Aus­tralia on Oc­to­ber 18 and go­ing for­ward to next year’s World Cup.

Cru­den will be brought back for the Bris­bane game, while Test world lead­ing points sc orer Dan Carter is also ex­pected to re­turn from in­jury and be in­cluded in the squad.

The in­clu­sion of Har­ris could help solve a longer­term is­sue for Hansen, who has been strug­gling to find a third hooker for the team after An­drew Hore r etired las t y ear.

The 22­year­old Har­ris is ex­pected to make his de­but off the bench to­day

15 Joaquin Tu­culet, 14 Juan Imhoff, 1 3 Mar celo Bo sch, 12 Juan Martin Her­nan­dez, 11 Manuel Mont ero, 10 Nic olas Sanchez, 9 T omas Cubelli, 8 L eonardo Se­na­tore, 7 Juan Martin F er­nan­dez Lobbe, 6 Ben­jamin Ma­come, 5 To­mas La­vanini, 4 Mar­i­ano Galarza, 3 R amiro Herr era, 2 Agus tin Cr eevy (capt), 1 Mar cos A yerza. 16 Ma­tias C ortese, 17 Luc as No guera P az, 18 Nahuel Te­taz Cha­parro, 19 Ma­tias Ale­manno, 20 R odrigo Bae z, 21 Martin Lan­dajo , 22 Santiago Gon­za­lez Igle­sias, 23 Ho­ra­cio Agulla

15 Isr ael Dagg, 1 4 Ben Smith, 1 3 C on­rad S mith, 12 Malak ai F ek­i­toa, 11 Ju­lian Sa vea, 10 Beau­den Barr ett, 9 Aar on Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (capt), 6 Jer ome K aino, 5 Sam Whit elock, 4 Br odie Re­tal­lick, 3 Ow en F ranks, 2 K even Mealamu, 1 Wy­att Cr ock­ett. 16 Nathan Har­ris, 17 Joe Moody , 18 Ben F ranks, 19 Jer emy Thr ush, 20 Sam Cane , 21 T J P er­e­nara, 22 C olin Slade , 23 C ory Jane . after D ane Coles was r eleased fr om the squad t o re­turn to New Zealand for the birth of his fir st child.

How Har­ris s tands up t o the be st scrum in the w orld and c ements his role at the li­ne­out, break­down and in open play will give Hansen an in­di­ca­tion of whether he has ans wered his most vex­ing ques­tion less than a year out fr om the W orld Cup.

Ar­gentina c oach Daniel Hour­cade has asked his t eam to play more ex­pan­sively this sea­son to com­ple­ment their impr es­sive p ack, though the y have not cre­ated as many line breaks or sc ored the trie s the y would ha ve an­tic­i­pated.

Rangy lock T omas La vanini has been brought back into the side after he was sus­pended for one match fol­low­ing their enc ounter in N apier, when he charged into All Blacks cap­tain Richie M cCaw at a ruck.

Mas­sive winger Manuel Mon­tero, who has sc ored t wo of his side’ s six tries in the com­pe­ti­tion, also re­turns to face the All Blacks after he was left out in N ew Z ealand f or what Hour­cade called “t ac­ti­cal r ea­sons”.

The match is tele­cast on SS1 from 11.30 pm.

— Reuters. NEW Sri Lank a c oach M ar­van A tap­attu tar­geted more suc­cess yes­ter­day for cricket’s reign­ing T20 cham­pi­ons in next year’s 50­overs World Cup, say­ing mor ale was on a high.

In his fir st pr ess c on­fer­ence sinc e land­ing the job full­time, Ata­p­attu said there was no dang er of c om­pla­cency among his play­ers and even star bats­man K umar S an­gakkara r ecog­nised there w as r oom f or impr ove­ment ahead of the tour­na­ment in New Zealand and A us­tralia.

“It is the World Cup that is our fo­cus. Our morale is high. We have had a good run in the past six months and ob­vi­ously the chal­leng e f or me is t o sus­tain the suc­cess and build on it”, Ata­p­attu t old r eporters.

“I ha ve a t eam of pla yers who ar e will­ing t o lis ten and learn. E ven the world’s num­ber one bats­man [San­gakkara] al­ways wants to learn some­thing new t o add t o his g ame.”

Sri Lankan cricket has been buoyed by their T20 W orld Cup tri­umph in April fol­lowed by Test se­ries vic­to­ries against Eng­land and Pak­istan when Ata­p­attu was int erim c oach.

Although world num­ber one t eam South Africa did snat ch a 1­0 vict ory in a two­Test se­ries in July, the 43­yearold A tap­attu did enough t o impr ess cricket chiefs, who handed him a two­ year c on­tract ear lier this w eek.

“The main chal­lenge ob­vi­ously is to main­tain our re­cent suc­cess,” said the for­mer open­ing b ats­man.

“I want to have trans­parency in what I do so that all play­ers know what our plans are and how and where they fit in,” added A tap­attu, who was part of Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup win­ning team.

Sri Lanka will warm up for the World Cup, which runs fr om Fe­bru­ary 14 to March 29, with 1 4 ODI s ag ainst Eng­land and the t our­na­ment’s co­hosts New Z ealand.

Ata­p­attu, a f ormer skip­per f or the na­tional side, is the is­land na­tions’ sev­enth coach in the las t four years, but is the first Sri Lankan to hold the post in 15 y ears.

He r eplaced English­man P aul Far­brace, who quit in April after just four months in charge to be­come Eng­land’s deputy c oach. — S apa­AFP.

PHOTO: GETTY

Beau­den Barr ett mak es his s econd s tart f or the All Bl acks at fl yhalf in the R ugby Cham­pi­onship cl ash ag ainst Ar gen­tina t oday.

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