Daniel Carter set to return
Flyhalf Daniel Carter is likely to return to the starting side for New Zealand in their final Test against France on Saturday with expectations he can spark the side to even higher performance levels. The All Blacks produced a near perfectly executed game plan as they overwhelmed France 30-0 in Christchurch, New Zealand, last Saturday with their tactical kicking forcing Philippe Saint-Andre’s team back into their own territory. It was a stark contrast to the expansive approach the team took last year and in the first Test at Eden Park, where they were rusty in a 23-13 victory, and assistant coach Ian Foster said their development was about blending both styles. “It’s not our goal just to do one or the other, it’s to do both and I was really impressed with the decisionmaking of ... when to kick,” Foster said in comments published in the New Zealand Herald yesterday. “It’s exciting where we got to, don’t get me wrong ... but we’re fully aware that there’s still plenty of potential to get smarter and better at how we see that space.” Carter, who missed the first two Tests with a broken hand, is expected to be one of a small handful of changes for the third Test in New Plymouth.
Ioane declares himself fit
Flying Wallaby winger Digby Ioane has declared himself fit to tackle the British and Irish Lions in the first Test on Saturday, just four weeks after knee surgery. The 34-Test veteran had been a real doubt after an arthroscopy to clean up damaged cartilage last month. “It’s feeling good, I’ll be ready for this weekend,” Ioane told reporters yesterday after taking a full part in team training sessions. “I just had to do the little things first to get it right, but now I’m right to go. All I have to do is just get picked for this weekend.” Coach Robbie Deans looks certain to select Ioane on the left, with Israel Folau making his Test debut on the right.
De Villiers a doubt for final
South Africa captain Jean de Villiers is doubtful for a four-nation tournament final against Samoa on Saturday. Team doctor Craig Roberts said on Monday that the 32-year-old inside center injured a rib in the 30-17 triumph over Scotland in Nelspruit, South Africa, last weekend. “Jean was able to continue playing, but was in some discomfort after the match,” Roberts said. “He could not train Monday and we will reassess him in the next few days before making a final call on his availability to face Samoa.” Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is scheduled to name his starting lineup and eight replacements today. Prop Jannie du Plessis and No. 8 Pierre Spies (facial lacerations), and lock Eben Etzebeth (shoulder discomfort) also missed training in Pretoria. Outstanding ball-carrier and flanker Willem Alberts (side strain), who missed the wins over Italy and Scotland, should be available for selection.
‘JIM’ inks Valladolid deal
Real Valladolid have appointed former Levante UD coach Juan Ignacio Martinez to replace Miroslav Djukic on a two-year contract, with an option for a further year, the La Liga club said on Monday. Known affectionately as “JIM,” Spaniard Martinez left Levante at the end of last season after the Valencia-based club decided not to extend his contract following an 11th-placed finish. He was to be presented to the media yesterday, Valladolid said on their Web site. The coaching job was vacant because Djukic left at the end of last season to take over at Valencia, where he was once a player.