Rugby: Decisions on injured Highlanders tomorrow

Ma'a Nonu has an ankle problem and only took a limited part in training.
Ma'a Nonu has an ankle problem and only took a limited part in training.
Decisions on the fitness and availability of key Highlanders will be made tomorrow as the side's injury list shows no sign of decreasing.

With the Chiefs set to face the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night in the first game of the season, it appears unlikely the home side will front with a full-strength side to take on the defending champion.

Assistant coach Scott McLeod said there were still question marks over several players and whether they would be able to front on Friday.

Midfield back Phil Burleigh rolled an ankle in last Friday night's game against the Blues in Queenstown and did not train yesterday.

Ma'a Nonu also has an ankle problem and only took a limited part in training.

Fullback Ben Smith is struggling with a toe problem and did not train. He has been in a moon boot for the injury but it was hoped he could be available for the match on Friday night. He did not play against the Blues.

Brad Thorn is struggling with a tight calf and stood on the sidelines yesterday.

He injured the calf at training last week in Wanaka and also did not play against the Blues.

Other players were nursing bruises from last Friday night's game so it was a somewhat disrupted training session yesterday. Young flanker Hugh Blake is facing a lengthy spell on the sideline after dis-locating an AC joint against the Blues on Friday night.

McLeod said it was hard to say how many of the players would be right to front on Friday night.

''It is a bit early to say who will be available and a few of the guys are still quite ginger after the game on Friday night. We'll give them to Wednesday to see how they go,'' McLeod said yesterday.

McLeod said with all the injuries the team was not able to get the intensity hoped for at training. Instead the squad had concentrated on getting clarity around the team's game plan going into Friday night's match.

The pre-season, which had produced a win and two losses, had flown by for the team. One player who had come through the pre-season with a clean bill of health was openside flanker John Hardie.

The Southland flanker had his season last year ruined by injury and had played 50 minutes each in the previous two warm-up games.

''He still needs to work on his lines especially defensively. But he is working really hard at that and is a pretty experienced rugby player so we know it will come,'' McLeod said.