Auckland utility Isaia Toeava has been recalled to the All Blacks for their Tri-Nations trip to South Africa after management decided he was the best way to cover injury problems and the mix of their touring squad for the test with the Springboks.
Duncan Johnstone writes on Rugby Heaven NZ that the main worries lay with fullback Leon MacDonald’s ongoing head issues while wing Rudi Wulf has been troubled by a sprained knee from North Harbour’s loss to Taranaki in the Air New Zealand Cup last Friday.
The All Blacks showed their ability to cover wing last weekend when rookie centre Richard Kahui played in that role in the Bledisloe Cup win over Australia.
Kahui’s efforts drew praise from backs coach Wayne Smith while he also has some experience at fullback.
But in the end Graham Henry and his selectors decided that Toeava was the most sensible addition for MacDonald and that Wulf’s injury question mark meant he would be the odd one out in terms of naming the necessary 26 players to travel.
It’s another breakthrough for Toeava who has had a chequered career since breaking into the All Blacks as a teenager in 2005.
The 22-year-old has been putting in some good performances in the No 15 jersey for Auckland in preseason matches and was even impressive at fullback when the blue and whites suffered their shock loss to Counties-Manukau in the Air New Zealand Cup on Sunday.
Toeava made his All Blacks debut at fullback against Scotland as Graham Henry’s side completed a rare Grand Slam at Murrayfield.
Since then his international career has spluttered its way to 15 test appearances with most of them at centre.
Toeava hasn’t been required for the All Blacks this season after being part of the World Cup squad last year.
“Isaia is currently at fullback for Auckland and has played there previously at the international and the Super 14 level,” said Henry.
“He’s also got the ability to play elsewhere in the backline which is helpful when we are a long way from home.
“Leon is improving, but the medical advice is to take things slowly. He will gradually get back into exercise and then training and then may look to play an Air New Zealand Cup match.”
Heading to Cape Town for a one test assignment on August 16, the All Blacks have to be careful with their mix of forwards and backs. They will take three halfbacks but only two hookers.
It seems they will also be willing to risk the health of their inspirational captain Richie McCaw with specialist flanker Daniel Braid released to play for Auckland on Sunday in their Ranfurly Shield challenge from Taranaki.
A couple of All Blacks who have had light playing duties will be in action before the squad flies out to South Africa on Friday.
Halfback Piri Weepu (Wellington) and wing Anthony Tuitavake (North Harbour) will be involved in the second round match at Albany on Thursday a night as the All Blacks assemble in Auckland.Tweet