Rugby: AB still hopeful of making ABs

By Michael Brown

Anthony Boric will have an MRI scan today to reveal the full extent of his injury. Photo / Getty Images
Anthony Boric will have an MRI scan today to reveal the full extent of his injury. Photo / Getty Images

Anthony Boric has a painful and swollen foot but his mood will darken even further if he is told it could threaten his Tri Nations and World Cup chances.

The 27-year-old All Blacks and Blues lock nicknamed AB has a mid-foot strain. The injury is similar to that which has kept Tony Woodcock sidelined for the past eight weeks. Boric will have an MRI scan today to reveal the full extent of the damage. The worst-case scenario would be a six-month absence.

An X-ray yesterday cleared him of any break but it is painful and will probably rule him out of any further part in the Super Rugby season - he will definitely miss the Blues' semifinal next weekend.

It is a blow to the Blues, who already have a swathe of crocked locks, but a potential All Blacks lifeline to Tom Donnelly. The Highlanders second-rower has had an indifferent season, battling poor form and injury, but he has been included in this week's All Blacks camp in Wellington and a paucity of top locks suggests Donnelly is next in line behind Boric.

Donnelly had an impressive 2010, when he was first choice alongside Brad Thorn on last year's northern tour, and clearly has his admirers among the All Blacks selectors.

The Blues will rely on loose forward Chris Lowrey to play alongside Ali Williams in Boric's absence. Lowrey has done the job before but at 1.94m gives up 6cm to Boric as well as experience in the position - and the Reds and Stormers both have tall and efficient lineouts.

Blues coach Pat Lam bemoaned Boric's absence, pointing out he was the seventh lock injured this season but said what they gave up in height with Lowrey, they would gain in mobility.

North Harbour's James King, who is in the wider training group but has been struggling with a medial ligament strain, is the most likely to come on to the bench.

Blues doctor Stephen Kara said Boric's All Blacks chances would become clearer today after the MRI.

"It's too difficult to tell ... but there is some reassurance it's not a bad strain," Kara said. "It could be anything from two weeks to six months because he might need surgery and be out for six months."

Crusaders wing Sean Maitland suffered a similar injury and was sidelined for six weeks before returning to action against the Sharks last night.

The news was better on Joe Rokocoko and Jared Payne (both hamstring). They will be available next weekend, while Benson Stanley (neck) should also be fit to play. Wing Rene Ranger will also be available, defying an earlier prediction he would be out for the rest of the campaign with a hamstring tear. Fullback Isaia Toeava (hip) has been running for the past two weeks and is a chance to travel with the side this week.

Boric's absence is a significant blow to the Blues. He had been forming a good combination with the ever-improving Ali Williams in the past four weeks and their lineout work was impressive.

It will affect the Blues' game plan next weekend. There's an expectation the Blues will play a more expansive game if on a dry track. It's a game plan they believe suits their players but they seem to be discovering it's not the only way to play.

"It will be good to get to drier pastures and play some footy," Mealamu said. "But, at the end of the day, it doesn't have to be pretty. Finals football is all about crossing the line and winning the game. Whatever that looks like, we just have to make sure we get the job done."

They will certainly be better prepared than they were in 2007, the last time they made it to the final four. Then, the Blues travelled from Perth to Sydney to await results from other matches, believing they would be heading to Christchurch to play their semifinal against the Crusaders.

Instead, they were forced to go back in the direction they had just come and flew to Durban via Johannesburg after the Bulls demolished the Reds 92-3 in the biggest winning margin in Super Rugby history. The Bulls finished second, meaning both the Blues and Crusaders had to trek to the Republic.

It proved too much for the Blues. They were in their match with the Sharks for 70 minutes before finally running out of puff and going down 34-18.

This time around, they have spent the past six weeks in New Zealand and have rediscovered the art of winning rugby.

- Herald on Sunday

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