Chance meeting sees Grice return for Waikato

BEN STRANG
Last updated 05:00 11/01/2014

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A chance meeting at the gym has seen former All Blacks Sevens player Rory Grice called into the Waikato team for the national sevens tournament.

Grice was called into the team on Thursday night as a late replacement for star Declan O'Donnell.

It had been hoped that O'Donnell would return to the Waikato sevens set-up after a torrid 2013, where he didn't touch a rugby ball through injury.

"I think the tournament just come a week too early for Declan," Waikato coach Roger Randle said.

"It's a real disappointment for him. He's worked really hard to get back and be fit, but he didn't pull up well from the Bay of Plenty sevens last week."

That means Grice gets his recall to the team, in something of a surprise having not played for Waikato yet this season.

A former All Blacks Sevens player, Grice was spotted at the gym by Randle on Monday and asked if he'd be interested in helping out the team.

"He was keen to come in and give us a hand, so that's great news for us.

"He's got that x-factor. Rory will be lacking in match fitness, and we don't expect him to start and play every game, but he will be a good leader for some of the younger guys.

"When he is on the field, we know he can be brilliant. Hopefully we see a bit of that."

With O'Donnell already out, a double blow for the Waikato squad sees Joe Webber under a fitness cloud following the tournament last weekend, with a last minute decision to be made on his availability.

Isaac Te Tamaki is ready to play if Webber isn't cleared, and has a big future having only finished at Hamilton Boys' High last year.

"With these guys being out, we really have no expectations I guess," Randle said.

"We have pressure on ourselves, but we're ranked fourth in our pool, and outside our group I don't think much is expected.

"It's more important than ever now that the boys galvanise. We're going to have to have a great team performance in the tournament."

Waikato plays Otago, Manawatu and Hawkes Bay in pool play today, before knockout play tomorrow at the Rotorua International Stadium.

HOW THEY LINE UP

Jacob Ale, Rupeni Tamanikaiyaroi, Brodi McCurran, Regan Ware, Kylem O'Donnell, Kane Adams, Dylan Collier, John Malo, Joe Webber/Isaac Te Tamaki, Semisi Masirewa, Chad Bracey and Rory Grice.

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- Waikato Times

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