McCaw, Carter, Muliaina on track to meet France
Updated: September 19, 2011, 01:05
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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand(AP) Injured All Blacks Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina trained on Monday and assistant coach Wayne Smith said they should be available to play France in the World Cup this week.
The trio was named to play Japan last week, but they all withdrew two days before Friday's match when they hurt themselves in training. McCaw, who was due to become the first New Zealander to play 100 tests, complained of a sore calf muscle, Carter his back, and Muliaina his hamstring.
"They've all had a run around today,'' Smith said.
"Richie had quite a big session, Daniel got through a bit of work today. (He is) still not 100 (percent), but he got through a pretty good training run. Mils got through a lot more sharply than he has done in the last few weeks, so I'd say they're on track to be available.''
Carter strained his back in the tournament-opening win over Tonga, and Smith said it was loosening up.
"It's just a niggle, stiff, a bit uncomfortable, but the positive thing today is that he goal-kicked,'' said Smith, a former All Blacks flyhalf. "That's a really good sign because that's pretty difficult.''
Kieran Read, still recovering from an ankle injury in the Tri-Nations loss to Australia last month, ran for the first time, and Smith said he could be ready for the Pool A match against Canada next week.
Fullback Israel Dagg, who tore an abdominal muscle while running moves last week, said he was "going well'' after limited training.
Smith said the New Zealanders were planning for greater pressure from France on Saturday at Eden Park than they encountered in the wins over Tonga and Japan.
"The World Cup's different to normal test matches, that's what we've found,'' he said. "When you have two tier one teams against each other, the level of intensity goes up, so this will be a massive game because the French will be up for it and we've got to make sure we are.
"We've got to really get some edge. We've been watching all the other teams play and the physicality was way up, so we've got to get that really quickly. I'm certain they want to knock us over. Psychologically, it's important for the team, and we want to do the same.''
Smith said he'd been impressed by Ireland in its upset of Australia last weekend, saying the match was a victory for substance over style.
"I think they've issued a blueprint for rugby in showing that nothing changes,'' he said. "If you can win up front and you win the gainline, you win the collisions, you're probably going to win the game. You get rewarded for getting on the front foot, for winning the territory, for winning the impacts in the breakdowns, and that's where the game's played.''
The All Blacks have been in Christchurch since Saturday, promoting themselves and the World Cup to residents who were stripped of tournament matches because of the killer earthquake in February which also damaged the stadium. The team doesn't return to Auckland until Wednesday, and Smith said the time in New Zealand's second biggest city has been inspirational rather than a distraction in the buildup to France.
"With the All Blacks, you've always got those challenges because there's a lot of demands on the team, a lot of promotional work and public appearances, but this is a real bonus this week coming down here. I don't see it as a challenge at all,'' Smith said. "For me, it's coming home. For others, it's helping other people in whatever way they can. It's humbling for a lot of players to see what's gone on. I think it will help us rather than hinder us.''