Black cloud

New Zealand 71 Fiji 5
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The Independent Online
The All Blacks kicked off their 1997 international programme with an 11-try routing of Fiji yesterday, but there was little celebrating in Auckland last night.

Michael Jones, who has played for New Zealand in all three World Cups and is a stalwart of the Auckland Blues' Super 12 pack, was carried off with an injury to his left knee and was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. The blind-side flanker and 51-Test veteran has been plagued by problems since a career-threatening knee injury in 1989, and at 32 seems unlikely to come back from this setback.

The New Zealand coach John Hart also watched the outside-half and goal- kicker Andrew Mehrtens limp off with a strained hamstring. The right wing Jeff Wilson scored five tries in the romp while Christian Cullen touched down twice from full-back. Tana Umaga, whose Super 12 form forced his inclusion on the left wing at the expense of Glen Osborne, also crossed over.

The All Blacks now face Argentina in Wellington next Saturday. The Pumas, fresh from their drawn series against England, were thumped 39-17 yesterday by the NZ Maoris.

New Zealand: C Cullen; J Wilson, F Bunce, L Stensness, T Umaga; A Mehrtens (C Spencer), J Marshall; O Brown, S Fitzpatrick (capt), C Dowd, I Jones, R Brooke, M Jones (C Riechelmann), T Randell, J Kronfeld.

Fiji: F Rayasi; J Waqa, F Lasagavibau, M Bari, S Sorovaki; J Rauluni, M Rauluni; E Tuvinavono, A Naevo, I Tawake, E Katalau, B Cavubati, M Taga, G Smith (capt), E Naituivau.