Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Braid citing 'inconsistency' angers Lam

Isaia Toeava is the Blues latest injury concern. Photo / Getty Images.
Isaia Toeava is the Blues latest injury concern. Photo / Getty Images.

Thank heavens Tony Woodcock is returning for the Blues this weekend because Pat Lam dearly needs some good news.

The Blues coach's latest injury crisis is Isaia Toeava. The All Blacks outside back will see a specialist about his hip stress fracture this week and the result could be surgery which would put him out for six months.

Lam has already seen his best loose forward, Jerome Kaino, ruled out for the season with a shoulder injury and captain Keven Mealamu will miss Friday night's game against the Hurricanes with a calf problem.

"We're right into the bare bones of the team and the wider training group guys get their opportunity. That's just the nature of the competition," said Lam

"You can go two ways, you can sulk about it or you get on with it and look at it as exciting for guys getting a go."

It gets worse. Lam is seething over apparent inconsistencies in the judicial process which has seen loose forward Luke Braid cop a three-week ban for striking a Stormers opponent last weekend, whereas Hurricanes hooker Dane Coles has admitted he was lucky to get away with a ruck clean-out and also a punch thrown at Highlanders prop Bronson Murray. A Sanzar spokeswoman said only the ruck incident was looked at and it was decided it didn't meet the "red card threshold".

To add insult to injury for Lam, Coles is free to play at Eden Park while Braid will be kicking his heels.

"I'm really disappointed with the consistency of the citing commissioner," he said. "I mean, to have Dane Coles out there this week and openly admit to what he did, and we all saw it, and Luke's one when you have a look at it is pretty innocuous, so, pretty gutted about that. I think the citing commissioner has to look at himself. It's for everyone to see. Luke has to take responsibility for what he did but to look at what the other player did clearly and for him to admit that, I don't know what the citing commissioner was doing. All you ask for is fairness from that side. We've got one guy who is out for three weeks and the other guy is playing this week and openly admitting what he did."

Lam also had a pop at a schedule which gives his side a tight turnaround after arriving home from South Africa late on Sunday. Today's training run was the first time the squad had assembled since. They will have time for only one more training session - a captain's run tomorrow.

"Every team which comes back from Africa gets a Saturday game [usually]," said Lam. "We've been given a Friday game which is tough, but we've just got to embrace that and get on and perform as a group."

Lam has named Piri Weepu at first-five against his former franchise, with Gareth Anscombe, who broke his nose in last weekend's defeat by the Stormers, on the reserves bench.

Wings Rudi Wulf and David Raikuna return from injury, with Liaki Moli playing his first game for the Blues as Anthony Boric's replacement at lock.

Inside back Michael Hobbs returns from bereavement leave to the reserves bench.

Team doctor Stephen Kara said Boric could return in two weeks - the Blues have a bye next weekend - and Mealamu will miss only one week.

His news about Toeava hip wasn't so uplifting, however. "My suspicion is it's probably not healed since May of last year," he said. "He played through the Rugby World Cup with pain and painkillers and then obviously had a two-month rest - when he's resting he doesn't get any pain at all - and then he returned training with us and the pain started to come back on."

Kara said even surgery was not guaranteed to fix the problem.

Wing George Moala has a shoulder injury but could get a run during the Blues' bye weekend, while Rene Ranger is serving the second game of a two-week ban.

Woodcock's return to loosehead prop after a delayed start to the season is an extremely timely one for Lam.

Blues: Lachie Munro, David Raikuna, Benson Stanley, Ma'a Nonu, Rudi Wulf, Piri Weepu, Alby Mathewson, Brad Mika, Daniel Braid (c), Chris Lowrey, Ali Williams, Liaki Moli, Charlie Faumuina, Tom McCartney, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: James Parsons, Tevita Mailau, Filo Paulo, Sean Polwart, Gareth Anscombe, Michael Hobbs, Hadleigh Parkes.

- APNZ

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