New Zealand and Italy will try some new line-ups, injury will sideline Springboks' Smith and De Luca aims to play his way onto squad.
Rugby notebook: All Blacks make 11 changes to Tri Nations line-up
New Zealand and Italy trying new line-ups, and injury will sideline Springboks' Smith
All Blacks change line-up
New Zealand have made 11 changes to their starting line-up for the weekend's Tri Nations test against South Africa, recalling a string of players who are in the reckoning for the World Cup squad. Tony Woodcock, the prop, Richard Kahui, the centre, the winger Isaia Toeava and the fullback Israel Dagg return from injury and they have just the Springboks match to impress before the squad for World Cup is announced on Tuesday. The other changers are the forwards John Afoa, Sam Whitelock, Adam Thomson and Liam Messam while Colin Slade will partner Jimmy Cowan at half-back and Sonny Bill Williams starts his first Test of the season at centre.
Azzurri also re-mix squad
Nick Mallett, the Italy coach, has made 11 changes to the team that beat Japan last weekend for Saturday's warm-up against Scotland at Murrayfield. Andrea Masi returns at fullback for the first time since exiting the Azzurri's last match at Murrayfield in March after just a half-hour due to a muscle problem. Mirco Bergamasco is also back at left wing, after sitting out against Japan, and Gonzalo Garcia and Gonzalo Canale return in the centre, after helping Italy upset France during the Six Nations. Luciano Orquera will start at fly-half and Cornelius van Zyl will earn his first cap at lock.
Ireland's Kidney happy
Declan Kidney is satisfied Ireland's preparations for the World Cup are on track. The Irish host France at the Aviva Stadium in the second match of their double header on Saturday, ushering in an important phase for the squad. Losses to Scotland and Les Bleus have increased the pressure, though Kidney is pleased with the current progress. "We've lost the two games and every time you put on a green jersey you want to win a match," said the coach. "But I'm happy everything is coming together and the way the players are going about their business."
Injury sidelines Smith
Juan Smith has withdrawn himself from contention for South Africa's World Cup squad after failing to recover from an Achilles' tendon injury. The Springboks said the 2007 World Cup winner had informed Peter de Villiers, the coach, that he would not be fit for the tournament, losing his race to return from surgery after he tore his Achilles' in a Super 15 game in February. "I won't be able to give everything, and realise I should put my team, teammates and the Bok fans first," he said.
De Luca aims to play in
Edinburgh centre Nick De Luca hopes to earn his place in the World Cup squad when Scotland plays Italy on Saturday. De Luca is out to prove his match-winning intervention in setting up Joe Ansbro's try in the 10-6 win over Ireland two weeks ago was not a one-off. "I was very happy with my contribution," De Luca said. "It was only seven minutes, there wasn't much to do, but I did well, which is all you can ask."
Fiji to try diplomacy
Sam Domoni, the coach, said Fiji will press New Zealand through diplomatic channels to allow soldier Leone Nakarawa to be included in their squad. The lock returned to the team this year for the first time since 2009 and is in line to be named after injuries to front liners Ifereimi Rawaqa and Sekonaia Kalou. But Nakarawa's ties to the Fiji military make him ineligible for a New Zealand visa. New Zealand has applied travel sanctions against Fiji, banning members of the its military and their families, since Frank Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup.