Selectors have no doubts about Flavell

By Daniel Gilhooly

The All Blacks selectors do not accept they are taking a risk by naming Troy Flavell as their only cover at lock for the rugby test against Argentina next weekend.

Flavell was among the 11 players who left today with the coaches for Buenos Aires ahead of Sunday's (NZ time) one-off test.

They will join the starting 15, who left on Thursday to acclimatise.

Among the 11 back-up players there is extra cover at prop, hooker and halfback as it would be difficult to fly out specialists for those positions at short notice in the case of injury.

However, Flavell is the only lock to cover for starters Ali Williams and Jason Eaton, and he left the field during last night's 27-17 win over Ireland because of a stiff back.

However, forwards coach Steve Hansen said team doctor Deb Robinson had cleared Flavell fit this morning and the player told management he felt fine after a massage.

"There is not in any way a question mark," Hansen said.

"We've made that decision based on all the facts and we're very happy."

Flavell's back stiffened up before halftime here at Eden Park last night and the problem worsened in the cold conditions.

The big Blues lock is also playing with a torn shoulder tendon after opting against surgery for the injury suffered during the Super 14.

Hansen said they would have selected a fourth lock if there was any doubt about Flavell and said the 12-hour flight was not expected to provide any problem for his back.

The players named today alongside Flavell are backs Ma'a Nonu, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher and Jimmy Cowan and forwards Richie McCaw, Craig Newby, Carl Hayman, Neemia Tialata, Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore.

Hansen said they had been selected for the Pumas test only and their inclusion should not be seen as a pointer to the 30-man Tri-Nations squad to be named upon the team's home.

There had been consideration given to freeing up some other All Blacks from the series against Ireland to join the Junior All Blacks for their last Pacific Five Nations match against Japan in Dunedin next Saturday but the selectors decided rest would best serve those players.

Hansen agreed captain and flanker McCaw had endured a heavy workload in the Super 14 for the Crusaders and in both tests against Ireland.

But, after consultation with the player, he was named to continue the growth of the team and to aid skipper Jerry Collins in Buenos Aires.

"He (McCaw) is in the infancy of taking over the ownership of the team ... and we just thought it was the right thing to do to take him and keep building his relationships with his other leaders," Hansen said.

"Jerry's a first-time captain so he'll be able to spend some time with him and talk him through it."

Hansen said there was a 60 per cent chance McCaw would be on the reserves bench. Otherwise Newby would cover the loose forwards.

The reserves are to be named on Wednesday morning (NZ time).

The starting All Blacks were at Velez Sarsfield Stadium this morning to watch Argentina beat Wales 45-27 and clinch that series 2-0.

"It will be a good eye-opener for them to be in the atmosphere of the stadium, which really goes off," Hansen said, adding that the result indicated how difficult the Pumas would be to beat.

* All Blacks squad to play Argentina at Buenos Aires on June 24:

Starting 15: Leon MacDonald, Rico Gear, Isaia Toeava, Sam Tuitupou, Scott Hamilton, Daniel Carter, Piri Weepu, Mose Tuiali'i, Chris Masoe, Jerry Collins (captain), Ali Williams, Jason Eaton, Greg Somerville, Anton Oliver, Tony Woodcock.

Back-up players: Ma'a Nonu, Luke McAlister, Byron Kelleher, Jimmy Cowan, Richie McCaw, Craig Newby, Troy Flavell, Carl Hayman, Neemia Tialata, Keven Mealamu, Andrew Hore.

- NZPA

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