Lomu loss 'mixed blessing'

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The Independent Online

France have expressed mixed feelings about the absence of Jonah Lomu in Saturday's second Test. The powerful New Zealand wing yesterday flew home to undergo surgery after fracturing his cheekbone.

France have expressed mixed feelings about the absence of Jonah Lomu in Saturday's second Test. The powerful New Zealand wing yesterday flew home to undergo surgery after fracturing his cheekbone.

"Psychologically, it can be a good thing for the guys, but once on the pitch we couldn't say he [Lomu] did us a lot of harm last week," said the French coach, Bernard Laporte, after announcing his team in Marseilles. "Lomu played very wisely on Saturday. They were leading on the scoring board and he avoided risks."

The Tricolores' team manager, Jo Maso, added: "In his good days, Lomu can knock over four guys and score a try. But he's not really good at defending, and it can be a great help. His replacement is little known but you must not forget he's an All Black, so he's quick and dangerous.

"It's been a very long time that he's been waiting in the shadows of Lomu for his time to come. And he must have great motivation."

Laporte decided to make two changes, replacing the prop Christian Califano with Peter De Villiers and calling up the winger Philippe Bernat-Salles in place of the injured Thomas Lombard.

Bruce Reihana will take over on the left wing in the only change from the All Black team who won the first Test in Paris 39-26 last weekend. When Reihana earns his first cap he will be lining up against a country he had considered playing for just 12 months earlier.

Reihana thought seriously about appearing for France following the All Blacks' memorable defeat by the Europeans in the 1999 World Cup. The 24-year-old, who plays Super 12 rugby for Waikato Chiefs, would have been eligible to play for France as his mother, Nicole, who married a Maori, is French. "After New Zealand's World Cup semi-final defeat I was tempted to play for France," he revealed. "But eventually I gave up the idea, and I think I made the good choice."

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