x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Williams a Tri Nations concern

Ali Williams is a doubt for next month's Tri Nations after he pulled out of tomorrow's Test with Italy in Christchurch through injury.

Ali Williams is a doubt for next month's Tri Nations after he pulled out of tomorrow's Test with Italy in Christchurch through injury. The Auckland Blues lock missed the two Tests against France with an Achilles problem and was due to make his return against the Azzurri this weekend. He will be replaced by Isaac Ross. "It's disappointing for Ali and over the next 48 hours we will determined the next best course of action as far as his injury management is concerned," said All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson.

Williams' misfortune hands Ross, the Crusaders' lock, a start on his home ground. "This was the Test I was hoping to get a start in, my home track and everything. I'm pretty gutted for Ali but one man's misfortune is another man's treasure, so it's great," said Ross. Italy, meanwhile, have retained Craig Gower at fly-half, with coach Nick Mallett confident he can ignite the back line. "He's a very good passer," said Mallett. "He attacks the line well, understands space, is very competitive and brings a lot of big-match temperament to that position and confidence to that position," the coach said of the former Australian rugby league star.

"While he is still pretty inexperienced as a fly-half he's not inexperienced as an international competitor. "The two games he has played with Italy has convinced me that he's definitely a player of international class." The forwards have a huge amount of experience with Sergio Parisse, Mauro Bergamasco and Alessandro Zanni having won 172 caps between them. Only Parisse and lock Marco Bortolami have been retained in the pack from the side who lost to Australia last week.

* With agencies