Blues hunt for halfback relief
Wednesday, May 4, 2005 NZPA allblacks.com
Original squad choice David Gibson has been unavailable for weeks with neck problems while Steve Devine damaged his shoulder in last weekend's loss to the Bulls.
After an exhaustive day, researching players and seeking New Zealand Rugby Union approval, Northland's John Senio and North Harbour's Craig McGrath were being invited to front up to the Blues training tomorrow.
That session will resemble more of a fitness test to identify those capable of meeting the Hurricanes at Eden Park.
First five-eighths Carlos Spencer will visit his surgeon on Friday to check progress on his fractured cheekbone and he may be cleared for next week's final round-robin match with the Waratahs.
Lock Bradley Mika may also recover for that game after he strained the medial ligament in his knee last week.
The bonus is that senior lock Ali Williams will return after completing his six-week suspension for illegal rucking in the loss to the Crusaders.
"It is the biggest list of injured I can recall for a while at the Blues," team doctor Peter Coleman said.
"It has been a pretty tough time because the injuries have come in clusters. We had locks, five-eighths and now halfbacks."
Devine was still sore but had made enough progress for the medical staff to believe he could be fit for Friday. However Coleman said the next couple of training sessions would provide an answer.
Earlier this season Senio was drafted in to help when both Gibson and Devine were injured while McGrath has been playing regular club rugby and has been with the Blues in other seasons.
There are still doubts about the condition of Tasesa Lavea, Ben Atiga and Greg Rawlinson. Lavea damaged a knee, Atiga a shoulder and Rawlinson a knee but all three are expected to take a full part in training.
The Hurricanes are shading the Blues in the race for the playoffs and a victory at Eden Park would confirm that quest.
It would also give the Hurricanes their first win in the Super 12 against the Blues and help celebrate captain Tana Umaga's 100th match in the series.
Ticket sales have encouraged Eden Park officials to believe the crowd will exceed the 39,000 who watched the match with the Crusaders.
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