Carter looking good for France

NZPA     02 Oct 2007    

New Zealand medical staff were delighted at the result of a scan here today which showed no major tear in Carter's left calf muscle which tightened up at training last Thursday.

It was serious enough for the outstanding first five-eighth to be withdrawn from the match against Romania last Saturday but his progress has been good since.

Assistant coach Steve Hansen said the scan result was "really encouraging" but he did not want to commit to a prognosis ahead of the team naming on Wednesday morning (NZ time).

"A minor strain is the term that's being used so we feel that if we can manage him through the week then he hopefully will be available," Hansen said.

"If he's not, we've got some pretty good alternatives. Nick Evans' performance on Saturday was very encouraging."

Hansen said were Carter available, the All Blacks selectors should have 30 fit players to choose from for the quarterfinal on Sunday morning.

Fullbacks Mils Muliaina (hamstring) and Leon MacDonald (bruised thigh) are expected to be fully fit after being rested last weekend as a precaution.

Perhaps the biggest question mark now hangs over No 8 Sione Lauaki, who was to face a World Cup disciplinary hearing tonight (NZT) after being cited for a dangerous tackle on winger Romanian Gabriel Brezoianu.

Hansen did not want to discuss the finer details of the case so as to not prejudice the hearing involving the powerful Lauaki, a strong candidate for a reserve bench spot against France.

"We're reasonably comfortable with what happened and we'll go through the process and we'll cop whatever happens."

Few surprises are expected in the All Blacks starting 15.

If there were any problems, they were good ones because most players were in good form, Hansen said.

"Most people could pick the majority of the side but there are two or three positions that we're sleeping on," he said.

Both teams were to arrive in Cardiff tomorrow morning (NZT), with France to be based in the centre of the city and the All Blacks in the countryside at the Vale of Glamorgan, a resort-style setup used in recent seasons by the Welsh team.

France finished higher up than New Zealand in a pre-tournament lottery so had first preference on which of the two official World Cup hotels they wanted to stay in.

There was to be a coin toss tomorrow morning involving the managers of both sides to determine whose team will wear their alternate strip.

The rich, dark blue uniform being warn by France at this tournament clashes with the All Blacks' famous strip, meaning an alternate from one team was needed.