Just one game into the national rugby premiership and joint leaders Waikato won't train this week until tomorrow.
Waikato coaches Chris Gibbes and Scott McLeod cancelled yesterday afternoon's scheduled training run and media session due to illness and niggling injuries plaguing the squad and will also stick with today's scheduled day off.
"We've got a ton of guys crook, a couple of niggly little injuries and we had a few boys who played sick the other day as well, so we thought we'd give them a training off and tomorrow's a scheduled day off as well," McLeod said yesterday. "So hopefully we'll get them firing by Thursday."
Waikato opened their ITM Cup premiership season with a 42-22 win over championship team North Harbour last Sunday and are due to play another team from the lower division, Northland, at Waikato Stadium this Saturday at 5.35pm. Northland were pipped 46-34 (four tries each) by Otago in Dunedin last weekend.
The flu bug that sidelined Waikato lock Romana Graham and halfback Brendon Leonard last week is now sweeping through the rest of the squad, including several of the staff.
"There are about six now who have got a bit of the flu. It's still hanging around those who had it last week a little bit although they were OK to train, and we just thought we'll get them all completely rested and clear of all that.
"Talking to a lot of people and families around the place, it's going through everyone and I think we're all getting a turn," McLeod said.
The injuries that have sidelined loose forwards Marty Holah and Jack Lam for the start of the season are likely to keep both out again this week.
Holah is due to go for a further scan on his ankle where a small fracture has been discovered, while Lam is set to easing his way back into training tomorrow after a long layoff for a rib injury suffered while playing for the Hurricanes against the Chiefs in Super Rugby.
Waikato share the premiership lead on five points with Ranfurly Shield holders Taranaki, who defend the Shield against Tasman this Saturday night.
Meanwhile, McLeod had mixed marks for his backline's first outing of the season, rating their set-piece attacking play highly but still wanting better from them off phase play and in defence.
"I thought we struck off set-piece very well, presented good quick ball, got the gain line, but an improvement could be in our phase play.
"Just looking at our options available from our structure and executing it better.
"There were some outstanding pieces of skill and the ability to create six tries was a real highlight from a backs point of view as well," he said.
But Waikato also conceded three tries to North Harbour and McLeod was not marking the defence quite so highly.
"Defensively we've still got a fair bit to work on. Some of our connections and our alignment wasn't the best I've seen it, so I gave the boys a wee rap on the knuckles the other day about that."
While the North Harbour midfield and back three had proved particularly dangerous, McLeod felt Waikato's backline had been together long enough now to contend with that and understand what they needed to do to stop them.
"But we were a little rusty in those areas, I guess."
Waikato certainly are looking to play an expansive style based on the ability they have within their ranks to do that.
"We are looking to give individuals a bit more space and some of those boys took those opportunities well the other day. Particularly within our halves and our back three we've got real speed, excitement and skill factor there, so we've got to look at ways we can enhance that and be outstanding at it," McLeod said.
Young outside backs like Declan O'Donnell and Glen Robertson would certainly have taken confidence from successfully having a crack out wide against North Harbour.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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