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Cooper backs Evans on talent

Fotopress

Thursday, April 7, 2005    NZPA    Fotopress

Evans has been named to start the match against the Brumbies at Carisbrook on Friday night in the only change to the team who beat the Cats and the Reds in their last two starts.

Cameron MacIntyre is pushed back to the bench and is joined by halfback Danny Lee, with Jason Shoemark and Toby Morland dropping out of the squad.

Cooper has elected not to make any other changes, which is understandable considering his side is unbeaten in five games and has the bye next week.

He has gone for Evans, who has not played since tearing a hamstring against the Bulls on March 11, and is satisfied the wiry playmaker will slot in without any fuss.

"We'd initially targeted the Reds game for Nick's comeback but he wasn't quite there," Cooper said.

"He's now 100 per cent, we're absolutely sure of that, and he's extremely excited about playing again.

"It's been a tough call, because Cam has played superbly. But he's had a huge workload in the last few weeks and the timing is right to bring Nick back in."

Evans lit up Carisbrook the night he played the Bulls, breaking their defence open with his balanced running and accurate kicking.

Cooper downplayed any concerns Evans might be slightly rusty after so long on the sidelines.

"Nick came into the season without much game time anyway and he showed what he was capable of in that Bulls game.

"He's a quality footballer and I have complete confidence in him."

There were initially some concerns that Lee, who has missed the last three games, had a significant back problem, Cooper said.

But the gritty little halfback has trained pain-free this week and will probably get time off the bench.

"We had to be cautious with Danny but he's come through the sort of training that was troubling him in South Africa," Cooper said.

Jimmy Cowan - significantly less experienced than Lee - will be left with the task of marking the ageless George Gregan.

Cooper said it was impossible to narrow down key match-ups because the Brumbies had experience right through the team.

He doubted the Brumbies would be in desperation mode after their recent losses to the Sharks and Blues.

"They're too professional a team to be thinking along those lines," Cooper said.

"I expect them to be very methodical and focused on trying to beat us.
They won't be worried about any added pressure, and we can't be concerned about what they're thinking, anyway."

Highlanders: Ben Blair, Glen Horton, Anthony Tuitavake, Seilala Mapusua, Matt Saunders, Nick Evans, Jimmy Cowan, Paul Miller, Josh Blackie, Craig Newby, James Ryan, Tom Donnelly, Carl Hayman, Anton Oliver (captain), Carl Hoeft. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Clarke Dermody, Filipo Levi, Grant Webb, Danny Lee, Cameron McIntyre, Jason Shoemark, Neil Brew.