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All Blacks call on veteran Brooke as lineout mentor

Photosport

NZPA     09 Aug 2006     Photosport

The 62-Test All Blacks lock took lineout specialists Chris Jack, Ali Williams, Greg Rawlinson and Jason Eaton through several jumping drills when the All Blacks trained indoors at Queen Elizabeth II Park during their two-day Philips Tri Nations camp in Christchurch today.

Heavy rain and a wind-chill factor of -7deg C forced the squad to switch to the indoor gym.

Crusaders and Canterbury halfback Andrew Ellis joined the camp for his first taste of All Blacks training today as cover for the injured Piri Weepu and Jimmy Cowan, who sprained his right ankle late in Southland's Air New Zealand Cup match against Waikato on Saturday night.

Also training today was exciting winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, who played well for Waikato in the same match, scoring a try before being replaced midway through the second half with an apparent leg niggle.

Henry said Ellis was in as cover for both halfbacks and Sivivatu was taking part in the camp because "we just want to see how he is".

With New Zealand's lineouts having struggled in most of their six tests this year, Henry hoped Brooke's experience could be used to good effect.

"He's a very good lineout coach," Henry said.

"He's looked at our lineout over the last two Test matches and has come with some suggestions of how we can improve."

Brooke had been called on by Henry to help the All Blacks in 2004 and had also been involved with both the national under-21 and under-19 teams.

"It wasn't too long ago that he was playing for the All Blacks," Henry added.

"He played 62 Tests and he's got a lot of knowledge about lineouts, so we got him in to help us out and it's been very positive."

Henry said Brooke was called in just for this one training camp, but "maybe... occasionally" he might be approached for his expertise again.

Asked if he saw the All Blacks' lineout problems as a long-term project, Henry said there was plenty of work to do in that facet of play.

"We think we've made very good progress last night and today, and we've still got some work to do this afternoon.

"There's not going to be a quick fix. It's something we're going to have to work on over the next 15-18 months.

"But I think we've made some progress today."

Henry confirmed his intention to keep "experimenting" with his 30-man Tri-Nations squad in a bid to blood players in Test-match situations.

Their fourth Test of the championship was against Australia at Auckland on Saturday next week. Victory would secure the title for the unbeaten All Blacks.

"We'll continue through the next three games with that team of 30 and we hope to get everyone on the track so they've got more experience of playing Test rugby... so we've got that depth and team unity."

He said that policy would "finish at some stage" and All Blacks management would then "just concentrate on trying to produce the best team all the time".

"We're still going through that process."

The All Blacks' last three games were on consecutive Saturdays, which required plenty of planning.

"That's a major challenge, because we've got to travel to South Africa in the middle of it, and we haven't had a lot of success in South Africa over the last couple of years."

Henry said All Blacks management were trying to come to terms with the Springboks' style of play and working out the best way to beat them.

While the Springboks had yet to record a win from three games, despite coming agonisingly close to beating the Wallabies at the weekend, they would be a lot stronger at home, Henry said.

"They'll play with a lot of passion there," he said.

"They're playing at high altitude, so they'll be all go."

But Henry said the main focus for the All Blacks was the Wallabies Test and said he would not be tempted to rest key players ahead of the South African leg.

"We want to win this. We've got a chance of winning the Philips Tri Nations in Auckland if we play well. So that's our focus."