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McAlister's next move

Thursday, March 3, 2005    NZPA    

With another utility Ben Atiga fit to resume at centre after a hamstring strain and McAlister's goal-kicking required, the midfield selection squeeze has eliminated Sam Tuitupou.

The hard-hitting Tuitupou has moved to the reserves in the only change made by the Blues after their opening round victory against the Highlanders.

McAlister’s latest move means he has occupied three positions in his four starts for the Blues to match the versatility he has shown for his North Harbour province.

"Playing centre against the Highlanders was quite hard, a bit of a challenge especially on defence," McAlister said.

"You are the link there for the defensive patterns so you have to have your talking boots on.

"I enjoy the space out there but it is not instinctive yet, a bit harder to get into the game because you are further away from the ball."

McAlister said the positional switches did not disconcert him and if it meant continued selection he was prepared to make the moves.

But he would bridle if he was asked to play fullback. He had one game there some time ago and did not want to repeat that.

Nor did he want to go through the hamstring trouble which robbed him of an All Blacks jersey on the tour of Europe last year.

"It was tough putting all that work in and then having that happen, it was pretty gutting and tough to take but I got a lot of support from everyone.

"I had the option of going home but I preferred to stay, it was all part of the job. It was very frustrating but touch wood that will stay away for the Super 12."

McAlister is enjoying the renewed association with back coach Joseph Schmidt, who coached him in the New Zealand Secondary Schools side.

"He is always on the go and he has got good ideas and loves rugby,"
McAlister said.

There is a theme of coaching connections for this game with Reds coach Jeff Miller a close friend and former ally of Blues technical advisor David Nucifora.

Nucifora's older brother Garry manages the Reds while Miller's assistant coach Anthony Eddy worked with Nucifora for several years when they were at the Brumbies.

Team: Mils Muliaina, Isa Nacewa, Ben Atiga, Luke McAlister, Joe Rokocoko, Carlos Spencer, David Gibson, Xavier Rush, Daniel Braid, Angus MacDonald, Ali Williams, Greg Rawlinson, John Afoa, Keven Mealamu, Saimone Taumoepeau.

Reserves: Rudi Wulf, Sam Tuitupou, Steve Devine, Nick Williams, Justin Collins, Taufa'ao Filise, Derren Witcombe.