McAlister named at First Five for Harbour

Friday, August 27, 2010    NZPA    

McAlister is shifted in one place from his preferred second five-eighth berth and his performance will be closely watched by the New Zealand selectors, who are seeking a backup No 10 to Aaron Cruden for the Investec Tri Nations test against Australia in Sydney on September 11. A playmaking hole opened up for that test following surgery to first-choice option Daniel Carter.

McAlister is believed to be in a three-man race for the backup berth with Canterbury pair Colin Slade and Stephen Brett.

The 30-test veteran struggled to impress when used at first five-eighth last season, notably when starting in the role against Italy at Christchurch.

However, he impressed North Harbour coach Craig Dowd when shifted there in the second half of last week's defeat of Otago.

"Luke brings so much experience to the position and talking to the players after the Otago game, they said he made a big difference when he went to 10," Dowd said.

"His option taking and the way he steered us around the park was excellent. So his selection there is really recognition of how Luke played and he has been getting better and better. His confidence is really growing and he has been a standout player for us."

Dowd has also made a change in his loose forwards mix, bringing in Tom Chamberlain to start at blindside flanker with Malakai Ravulo at openside flanker.

Team: Jack McPhee, Alipate Fatafehi, Jack Tarrant, Brendon Watt, Ken Pisi, Luke McAlister, Chris Smylie, Richard Mayhew, Malakai Ravulo, Tom Chamberlain, Anthony Boric, James King, Ben Afeaki, James Parson, Michael Reid (captain). Reserves: Mike Mayhew, Taione Vea, Filo Paulo, Matt Luamanu, Grayson Hart, Michael Harris, Nafi Tuitavake