Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

All Blacks: Jane an option at fullback

Cory Jane could wear the 15 jersey against Wales on Sunday morning. Photo / Getty Images
Cory Jane could wear the 15 jersey against Wales on Sunday morning. Photo / Getty Images

While Israel Dagg's bruised hip continues to be monitored, the All Black coaches will mull the prospect of injecting Cory Jane into battle at fullback against Wales.

Jane, for most of his career, held aspirations to be the All Black fullback - playing there for the Hurricanes but on the wing in the test arena. He never really made peace with the scenario - until this year. Then he decided, or was persuaded, that he was a wing at all levels of the game.

"It helped a couple of years ago that we were using fullbacks - just because of the way the kicking was going - on the wing," he says. "I got to learn better lines on the wing and realised what you have to do and I worked at it and I enjoy it.

"You also don't have to worry too much about anyone else and you get to save your legs a bit - I am not as young as I was."

So a little like the couple who become pregnant when then they give up trying, Jane may find himself handed the No 15 jersey now that he knows for sure in his own mind that he's a wing.

It's only a might as Dagg, who was struggling after an aerial collision in Edinburgh, trained in Rome, although he didn't take contact. His light training involvement was precautionary and the All Blacks wouldn't want to be without his booming right boot at the Millennium Stadium or his tactical genius in being able to roam, looking for and usually finding mismatches in the defensive line to exploit.

But what they have following Jane's 25-minute cameo at fullback against Italy, is reassurance that they have a quality option in reserve. Jane's influence was enormous - game changing and inspirational. His vision and ability to see space and play others into it made all the difference.

He brought both Julian Savea and Hosea Gear into the game and it wasn't coincidence that the All Blacks, stilted and uncertain, were suddenly assured and direct after Jane was introduced off the bench.

"It was massive," said Savea of Jane's influence. "In one play he took out three defender. His ability to do that - was awesome for the boys outside him and you could see why he is one of the best wings/fullbacks in the world."

If nothing else, the All Blacks gained confirmation that a back three of Savea, Gear and Jane could work effectively and potentially lethally and will be probably their preferred combination if Dagg isn't passed fit.

Assuming that he is, though, a tough choice will have to be made between Savea and Gear. Jane is a given, with room for only one of the 'powerhouse' wings. Savea, in the way he continues to strike from limited rations, is probably ahead by a nose, but Gear's willingness to get off his wing and charge into the midfield makes him hard to leave out as that could be a critical way to build momentum against the rush defence of the Welsh.

- Herald on Sunday

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