Canterbury holds out hopes over Ellis
Canterbury holds out hopes over Ellis

All Black season-ending tour contender Andy Ellis remains a faint hope of selection for Canterbury in Saturday's Air New Zealand Cup final.

Ellis, in a race for the third halfback spot in the 35-strong team, suffered a match-ending knee injury in Canterbury's 31-21 semifinal win over Hawke's Bay last weekend.

At first it was feared the injury would not just rule him out of Saturday's provincial decider, but out of tour contention all together.

But All Black coach Graham Henry indicated on Wednesday that the injury was now not as bad as first feared.

Canterbury coach Rob Penney has now bracketed Ellis in the starting halfback spot for Saturday's showdown against Wellington at Westpac Stadium.

If he does not pass a late fitness test, then rookie No 9 Tyson Keats will start for Canterbury.

That would see Steve Alfeld moving onto the bench.

Should Ellis play, he will come against the man most likely to knock him out of the All Black touring party, Wellington's Alby Mathewson.

As expected, Penney has not called up All Black star Daniel Carter for the Air New Zealand Cup final.

Carter made his return to the playing field during Wednesday's match between the All Black training squad and the New Zealand Barbarians.

He was available for selection for Canterbury had any further injury concerns in back-line stocks.

But that has not eventuated.

Penney has also recalled Sean Maitland to replace James Paterson who suffered a serious knee injury against Hawke's Bay.

Greg Somerville will start at prop and Scott Hamilton at fullback in their final matches for Canterbury before joining the overseas exodus to Europe.

Canterbury versus Wellington: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Paul Williams, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Andy Ellis/Tyson Keats, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Hayden Hopgood, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Michael Paterson, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crocket. Reserves: Steve Fualau,, Owen Franks, Nasi Manu, George Whitelock, Tyson Keats/Steve Alfeld, Hamish Gard, Adam Whitelock.