Francis Saili ready for his test debut in Hamilton

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2013
Francis Saili
READY TO GO: North Harbour’s Francis Saili may get his first taste of test rugby against Argentina this weekend.

Related Links

Chiefs, All Blacks tightlipped on SBW's return All Blacks expect 'super-charged' Pumas side Conrad Smith likes look of young Francis Saili Nonu may get the nod for northern sabbatical All Blacks Carter, Barrett likely to be available Chiefs duo Kerr-Barlow, Cane eye ABs success

Relevant offers

All Blacks

Robson: Five-eighth lessons learned on the job Wales cop press flak for latest loss to All Blacks Hansen rejects Gatland's ABs 'rattled' claim All Blacks tour finishes with a win over Wales Scrum guru Cron favours quiet way forward All Black Sonny Bill Williams plans ring return Fit Dan Carter is still the All Blacks' best No 10 No half-measures for ABs No 9 Aaron Smith McCaw diplomatic over potential turf issues All Blacks side out to stake World Cup claims

It's been a managed apprenticeship, but the All Blacks finally believe talented North Harbour and Blues youngster Francis Saili is ready to be thrown in at the deep end of test rugby.

And if it's a sink or swim scenario, they're confident the 22-year-old midfielder has had enough time in the national environment to keep his head above water.

Whether it occurs this week depends a lot on the physical and mental state of Ma'a Nonu. The veteran No 12 has been struggling with an ankle injury that impeded him in the twin wins over the Wallabies, and there's strong thought being given to resting him for Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against Argentina at Waikato Stadium.

The experienced second five-eighth is also still looking to resolve his employment issues for next season, with New Zealand's Super Rugby franchises reluctant to find a place for him in their mix.

It may be that Nonu sits this one out, with All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster making it clear yesterday no chances would be taken with their veteran No 12.

"If we're not totally convinced about the ankle, then we'll make that decision," said Foster. "It will be based on where he's at. He's clearly been playing with that ankle bothering him for the last couple of games. He's feeling a lot better now, but it is an option for us not to play him this week."

If that happens, Foster says Saili is ready for his chance.

"He's certainly been exposed to the environment long enough to be ready. We've been impressed with his skillset.

"He's still a young man but he's had a great Super Rugby campaign, he's confident and we think he'll likely bring that confidence on to the international stage.

"We've got to make sure we've got the right people around him so he can go out and play well."

The likely return of Dan Carter from his calf strain should help and with Beauden Barrett also set to return too, Carter's ability to slip out a position will provide the insurance. Fairfax NZ

Ad Feedback

- Waikato Times

Special offers
Opinion poll

Which All Black deserved man of the match in the Wales test?

Wyatt Crockett

Dane Coles

Owen Franks

Brodie Retallick

Sam Whitelock

Jerome Kaino

Richie McCaw

Kieran Read

Aaron Smith

Beauden Barrett

Julian Savea

Sonny Bill Williams

Conrad Smith

Charles Piutau

Ben Smith

Keven Mealamu

Joe Moody

Charlie Faumuina

Patrick Tuipulotu

Liam Messam

TJ Perenara

Colin Slade

Ryan Crotty

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content