Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

All Blacks: Hore gets set for last hurrah

Veteran hooker will tour with All Blacks at end of year but at 35 the finish of his professional career is in sight.

Andrew Hore flew in a helicopter yesterday to Balclutha on an All Black promotional visit. Photo / Getty Images
Andrew Hore flew in a helicopter yesterday to Balclutha on an All Black promotional visit. Photo / Getty Images

Andrew Hore will be picked for the All Blacks' end-of-year tour.

The experienced hooker has started six of the nine tests this season but, at 35, he is in sight of his international rugby finishing line.

His name is missing from the team sheet for the last domestic test against the Wallabies with Keven Mealamu to start and Dane Coles on the bench.

While Otago rugby supporters might lament Hore's absence, it is not a pointer to him riding off into the Central Otago sunset just yet. He flew in a helicopter yesterday to Balclutha on an All Black promotional visit and in another 10 days will leave on his final tour of duty.

The national panel picked Coles this year as the backup hooker to Hore and the even more experienced Keven Mealamu, and have used Coles whenever they could.

They have been on the lookout for another promising hooker and hoped they would settle on one to take on the tour to Japan, France, England and Ireland next month.

A number have been assessed and Liam Coltman, Rhys Marshall and Nathan Harris have worked alongside the All Blacks in their training camps.

They are all promising but not close enough to the standards the All Black selectors want. The selectors think all will develop more if they bulk up in the off-season and then display their credentials in the next Super 15 series.

So with a little persuasion and family encouragement, Hore is ready to set off on another trip with Mealamu and Coles.

This will be Hore's last All Black trip because he has not been picked by the Highlanders next season nor is he interested under that coaching regime, and he does not appear to be searching for an alternative Super 15 job.

He and his extended family farm in the Maniatoto district, several hours' drive inland from Dunedin, and Hore knows the time is fast approaching when he will have to settle into that fulltime work.

He will turn out for his Maniatoto Maggots club but it would be improbable, even if there were a rash of injuries, for him to be summoned from that level to test rugby next June against the touring England side.

While Hore may have lost a metre of pace, his crafty work and flint-hard physique have allowed him to turn in some strong performances this season.

That guile helped counter Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis in the last test in Johannesburg before Coles came off the bench to up the tempo.

Meanwhile the Wallabies landed in Queenstown yesterday to spend two days there in a schedule devised by Robbie Deans before he lost his coaching job.

One time Tasman wing Peter Beetham is tipped for a debut because of a stack of injuries and Matt Toomua to play second five-eighths outside tackling heavyweight Quade Cooper.

Ben McCalman may come in at No8 with Ben Mowen to shift to the blindside for the injured Scott Fardy.

- NZ Herald

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