New Zealand's Luke McAlister is set to make his first appearance for his home province since he left for the English club Sale in 2007. McAlister - who only played 25 minutes of rugby in the All Blacks' two defeats by South Africa - is expected to turn out for North Harbour against Tasman on Friday in the second round of the Air New Zealand Cup. "Getting game time is the big thing," McAlister said on his arrival from South Africa. "I haven't had much in the last two or three months so getting a few 80 minutes under my belt would be good."
After the All Blacks' 31-19 loss to the Springboks last week McAlister admitted they were down on confidence but felt that hard work between now and August 22 when they take on Australia in Sydney could see them get their Tri-Nations title defence back on track. Last year they also suffered back-to-back losses but rallied to win their fourth consecutive trophy. "We've got to knuckle down and get some confidence back," he said. "We've only got three games left. It's not like we haven't been here before so I'm sure the boys will be able to turn it around."
After the second Bledisloe Cup game in Sydney the All Blacks host South Africa and the Wallabies in September. McAlister would also be happy to see Daniel Carter return to the squad, despite New Zealand coach Graham Henry and his assistant Steve Hansen showing some reluctance in rushing the star fly-half back into the international fray. Carter is on the comeback trail from a ruptured Achilles tendon and looked solid in his outing for Canterbury last weekend.
"He's been a big part of this side so hopefully he can get his fitness back up there and can come back into the side," said McAlister. * With agencies