Smith, Ellison compete for utility spot

By Alastair Bull, NZ Newswire Updated May 21, 2012, 6:34 pm

Injuries to Richard Kahui and Cory Jane are giving fringe utility backs a little more to work towards at the All Blacks wider training group in Auckland this week.

Kahui, a centre converted into a winger for the All Blacks in the World Cup last year, and Jane, adept at fullback and wing, were certainties for the final squad of 30 for the three-Test Ireland series in June before their injuries.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has said the selectors will probably look for a utility back to replace Jane at next week's camp, but their injuries give a chance to utilities already in the 35-strong training squad such as Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison.

Smith, who has played two Tests for the All Blacks, and Ellison, who has played one, haven't established themselves as regular All Blacks but they have been in good form for the Highlanders and are keen to force their way into the squad of 30.

"Obviously it's unfortunate for those players that they've got some injuries," Smith said.

"If I manage to make that 30 I'd play anywhere, it doesn't matter to me. If it was to be on the wing I'd be happy with that, but first of all I've got to try and make that 30 which is a hard task."

Versatility can restrict some players to bench roles but Ellison says it's worked for him in the past.

"I know it helped me at the Hurricanes because we had Conrad (Smith) and Ma'a (Nonu) in the midfield so I played on the wing, but I'm not sure what they've got planned here. I'm just enjoying playing rugby."

Hansen said Hurricanes fullback Andre Taylor was in contention to replace Jane but no decision was likely to be announced until Tuesday.

The All Blacks are also assessing hooker Keven Mealamu's calf injury to see if he needs to be replaced for next week's training camp.

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  1. tom10:27pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Old "Sleepo's" best wont be good enough i'm afraid!!

  2. Steve08:53pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Put Smith at fullback and Dagg on wing, there's no need to bring in Guilford. Ellison on the bench to cover for wing/centre.

  3. Bill06:56pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Ellison is a good choice.

    2 Replies
  4. John05:47pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Not about ABs. I'm on about asset sales! Our owners/admistrations have limited abilities! We must take off our blinkers now and welcome foreign investers who are prepared to bring in their expertise/finance to NZ. It's good for the country. They can never take our land, companies eg. airport back to their home country. NZ will always own them. Think about it!

  5. stephen03:50pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    If its not to late drag zac he wasnt picked in first place for very good reasons whats changed hes miles away being from all black quality surely they are still not doing the sympathy vote for him like hobbs from blues hes not even of n.p.c standard

  6. GCSB02:10pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Just bring on the best

  7. Kiwi10001:24pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    A player who has good experience on both the wing and fullback is required to replace Cory Jane. You need the back three to be safe as under the high ball to the corners.

    3 Replies
  8. 01:20pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Robbie Freuen

  9. John hamm01:09pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Timm Nai Nai Williams ....the closest i have seen to Christian Cullen

  10. Darren12:44pm Monday 21st May 2012 NZSTReport Abuse

    Lelia Masaga...!!

    2 Replies

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