So I will miss this weekend's test match at Eden Park - oh that I could be there. The team has a predicatable look about it, but some points of interest, mostly in the reserves:
- Donald gets the nod at 1st V - I think this was likely given the way he was being talked up in the media - plus he gets his chance as the incumbent with a full strength side;
- Cowan keeps Leonard out for the moment;
- Tialata retains his role, but what is interesting is that Afoa doesn't even make the bench. Franks had a very good debut off the bench and perhaps he is seen as the guy for this role longer term;
- Sivivatu replaces cousin Joe, but interestingly Corey Jane is starting - you get the sense that Toeva would have started at wing had he been fit, leaving Jane on the bench - this is a ploy for the Australian kicking game - the back 3 all have experience at full back;
- Eaton is the comeback kid (predicted on this blog) covering lock and I guess the loosies;
- However the loosie mix (including reserves) has an unbalanced feel for me - who will cover McCaw? Obviously Rodney will, a ploy that has not worked before. Read is being rewarded for being the most compelling of the new loose forwards but overall the balance is not assisted;
This is a pretty experienced forward pack with a ton of experience and graft with an injection of newer blood (in Kaino and Ross). It is easily the best we can do (with the exception of Tialata who needs a big one). The backline restores some combinations but the yawning hole remains at 1st V. I would have picked McAlister, simply because I think he shades Donald in all departments - kicking, passing, running and tackling - and has the greater vision. But neither of them are Dan Carter. And that sadly may be the difference.
It will be 3.30am here when the game is on. I don't think I can get it live - I have found a provider who plays it 9 hours later, but I've yet to work out how I can access that! A work in progress!