Rugby Union: Back to Blacks for the tourists in Auckland

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The Independent Online
IT WAS very kind of the New Zealand Rugby Union to give the Lions one weekend off Test rugby once the series had begun but, as last night's selection by Auckland for Eden Park on Saturday alarmingly demonstrated, the next match could be as hard as any of the three Tests, writes Steve Bale from New Plymouth.

Such are the Ranfurly Shield holders' riches that eight of the New Zealand team who beat the Lions 20-18 last Saturday are Aucklanders. But more strikingly still, if everyone is fit there will be no place in Saturday's team for either the All Blacks' record try-scorer, John Kirwan, or the great wing forward Michael Jones.

Their appearance depends on the fitness of Va'aiga Tuigamala, carrying a knee injury from the Christchurch Test, and Mark Carter, recovering from a shoulder injury. Whoever plays, there will be 10 All Blacks in the Auckland team and the other five are New Zealand trialists. 'We have always regarded the Auckland game as a fourth Test,' Geoff Cooke, the Lions manager, said. Small wonder.

In order to give Dewi Morris a rest, the Lions put their stand-by scrum- half, Andy Nicol, on the bench for today's game against Taranaki - and may give him a similar role at Eden Park. Nicol has joined the tourists in New Plymouth because of doubts over Robert Jones's health, though the Welshman has now been passed fit after a persistent throat infection.

The NZRU has given permission for Nicol, who came to New Zealand hotfoot from Scotland's tour of the Pacific islands, to stay as long as the Lions think they need him.

Auckland (v British Isles, 19 June): S Howarth; J Kirwan / V Tuigamala, W Otutu, L Stensness, E Clarke; G Fox, J Hewett; C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick, O Brown, R Brooke, R Fromont, B Jackson, Z Brooke, M Jones / M Carter. Replacements: T Nu'uliitia, B McCahill, R Nesdale, K Nepia, A N Other, A N Other.