Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Welcome back, stranger

Cory Jane is world-class, says his All Blacks coach. Photo / Getty Images
Cory Jane is world-class, says his All Blacks coach. Photo / Getty Images

Knee and hamstring issues finally behind him, Cory Jane will make his test return against France on Sunday, and coach Steve Hansen believes the wing's experience will make up for his lack of game time.

Jane has played only a game and a half for Wellington in the ITM Cup this year after his knee problem ruled him out of the Super Rugby season.

A hamstring strain when he was on the verge of a return against Australia in Dunedin further delayed his comeback which, in hindsight, may have been a good thing, said Hansen, adding that the 30-year-old had the class to deliver despite a lack of match fitness.

"I think the false start might have been a blessing," Hansen said. "He seems a bit more comfortable and confident having been around a bit longer. He's settled in being a rugby player rather than a media star - that won't have done him any harm either. We just want him to do his core roles. If there's an opportunity to finish, we want to see him finish. We know he's really good in the air, so having the confidence to get up and do that job will be great.

"He's a guy who has played a lot of test matches," Hansen replied when asked whether a return against France in Paris was a tall order. "He's world class and he's just got to remind himself that he is world class."

If anyone has the talent to defy the odds and make a success of his comeback in what could be difficult and wet conditions at Stade de France, it is Jane.

At 1.83m and 88kg, he has made a habit of breaking conventions. He packs a lot of power into his relatively small frame, and his game awareness and knack of being in the right place at the right time have made him a valuable weapon on attack and defence over his 43-test career.

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Co-ordinating the raw Charlie Piutau and returning Jane in a new back three will be fullback Israel Dagg, who has no doubt his old sparring partner will return with his usual spark.

"He's a great player, he's been around for a long time," said Dagg. "He's got a lot of experience and knows how to read the game. It's great to have a guy like that back."

Hansen's plan was to start Piutau and Julian Savea and bring Jane off the bench - probably with a view to starting him against England next weekend - but Savea's flu put paid to that.

Teams named to clash at Stade de France 9am Sunday NZT:

France: Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Florian Fritz, Wesley Fofana, Maxime Medard, Remi Tales, Morgan Parra; Damien Chouly, Wenceslas Lauret, Thierry Dusautoir (c), Yoann Maestri, Pascal Pape, Nicolas Mas, Benjamin Kayser, Yannick Forestier. Reserves: Dimitri Szarzewski, Vincent Debaty, Rabah Slimani, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Antoine Claassen, Jean-Marc Doussain, Camille Lopez, Gael Fickou.

All Blacks: Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau, Daniel Carter, Aaron Smith, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Owen Franks, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Ryan Crotty.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa). Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Stuart Berry (South Africa), TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland).

- NZ Herald

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