Internationals Dale Budge: Kiwis looking strong for Tri-series

warriors4life_old

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From www.stuff.co.nz

By DALE BUDGE

Kiwis coach Brian McClennan's perennial problem of finding a makeshift five-eighth appears to be over as he heads into his first Tri-series defence.

Even without the injured Benji Marshall, McClennan has a couple of stand-out options to play in the No 6 jumper come the first test on October 14.

"We have got Nigel Vagana and Jerome Ropati - they are two good choices," McClennan told Sunday News.

Vagana played at five-eighth throughout last year's successful run. He would appear to have the inside running on the job this time around after captaining the Kiwis in Ruben Wiki's absence during the May 5 test against the Kangaroos this year.

Over the years New Zealand had struggled to find players in the key halves positions and at fullback but there was a growing depth beginning to emerge with the development of Ropati and other young players.

"Traditionally, the Kiwis have had trouble filling the pivotal positions - one, seven and nine," McLennan said. "We are starting to make strides there.

"We took Ben Roberts up to England (for the mid-year test) and he ended up playing well for the Bulldogs and had a role to play in their semifinal win last week.

"We are starting to make some small progress."

Former Queensland State of Origin rep Nathan Fien made himself available for the Kiwis and was poised to take the hooker's role.

"Nathan we are looking at as a nine and he can be a back-up seven," McClennan said.

With Stacey Jones set to return from a season in the UK Super League to play in the all-important halfback position, New Zealand for once appears to be close to full strength.

The only notable absentees at this point will be Marshall, Cowboys hooker David Faiumu and Storm centre/winger Jake Webster, who will undergo surgery once his season with the NRL club ends.

"There are no issues between us and the clubs at this stage."

The first batch of players selected in McClennan's train-on squad will assemble on Tuesday after getting a well deserved two week's rest.

"This Tuesday we start with the first crop. We have a base in Auckland and a base in Sydney.

"Every player that gets selected in the train-on squad gets a two-week break. We really want it to mentally freshen the players up.

"The NRL is a very torrid season and they all play beat-up so giving them that two-week break freshens them up considerably."

Players will continue to be added to the squad as their clubs drop out of the NRL playoffs.
 

warriors4life_old

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I think Vagana will be our first option at five/eighth because he played there last year and if he didn't work out then Ropati would be waiting in the wings to take over and shift Vagana to the centres.
 

warriorfaithful*_old

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warriors4life said:
I think Vagana will be our first option at five/eighth because he played there last year and if he didn't work out then Ropati would be waiting in the wings to take over and shift Vagana to the centres.

I think ropati will be 1st choice 5/8th. And vagana the back-up if it goes horribly wrong. :)
 

Jesbass_old

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warriorfaithful* said:
warriors4life said:
I think Vagana will be our first option at five/eighth because he played there last year and if he didn't work out then Ropati would be waiting in the wings to take over and shift Vagana to the centres.

I think ropati will be 1st choice 5/8th. And vagana the back-up if it goes horribly wrong. :)
 

kiwi man_old

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im worried if we use vagana at 5/8 because all year he has been a passenger for the sharks and i rkn he isnt even good enuff to make it at center for us
 

westie stylz_old

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They will probably have Ropati as our bench back reserve because he can play standoff or centre plus could even move to half or fullback at a pinch.

Vagana may well start in our first game but if he doesn't step up then they could switch them for the second test with Vagana coming off the bench.
 

commonsense_old

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im still not convinced that ropati is a 5/8th. but i would definitely prefer him there in front of vagana.
 

Kaiaua krusher_old

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I think Bluey has a dilemma. When do you put your faith in the youngsters?

I think that win or lose, this series could be the last we see of Stacey, Nigel and Rubes on the international scene and perhaps Ali, Solomona and Vainakola.

Apart from Hape, and Jason Cayless, and those mentioned it is hard to see too many from ESL making it this year anyway.
 

KeepingTheFaith_old

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We've got better more in form centres than Vagana and he's definately not a five eight. Bluey said he won't be picking players on reputation so that doesn't sound too good for Vagana. He may start there but I'm not sure we'll see Vagana stay at five eight for the whole series.
 

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