Lam ponders his full-strength Auckland team


Tuesday, October 4, 2005    NZPA    Fotopress

Loose forward Jerome Kaino showed he had recovered from his damaged hamstring at Auckland training yesterday to give coach Pat Lam even more debate about his final selection for the top-of-the-table Air New Zealand NPC Division One match in Christchurch.

All Blacks first five-eighths Dan Carter came through another session to convince the Canterbury staff he was ready to resume after breaking his left leg during the Philips Tri Nations in Sydney.

Carter started contact work last week and today ran strongly and said he was ready if wanted.

His recovery is timely because Cameron MacIntyre is missing with ankle trouble, while All Black Leon MacDonald is nursing a tender knee.

MacDonald, Tone Kopelani and Mose Tuiali'i are all expected to be available though after their injuries and suspensions.

"It is great that everyone is just about right because matches like this deserve to have all the good players involved," said Lam.

"Picking the Auckland side will be interesting because everyone has been playing well. But it has been the same most weeks and we have to sit down and pick the best 22 for this game.

"Shane (Howarth) and I go through the same routine each week, we use the same system and debate each person."

Auckland reintroduced All Blacks Malili Muliaina and Keven Mealamu from the bench in last weekend's win over Wellington but there is no guarantee they will start this week because of the form of Brent Ward and Derren Witcombe.

The selectors also have a logjam of choices in the back five with the versatility of players such as Bradley Mika, Kaino, Angus MacDonald and Kurtis Haiu.

Lam warned that Canterbury would bounce back after their last round defeat to Otago just as his team had responded to their solitary defeat to Taranaki.

"Otago have not done us any favours, Canterbury are sure to play extra well after that game last week," he said.