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New Stag's role pondered

10 August 2004

Southland rugby coaches Phil Young and Murray Brown haven't decided whether they will rush new import Craig McMullen into the starting lineup for Saturday's division one NPC opener.

The Stags play Waikato, in Hamilton, on Friday night and must be tempted to include the former Brumbies Super 12 and Australian A player even though he just arrived from France on Sunday.

McMullen has been playing club rugby in France and is still recovering from jet lag and a major climatic change after coming from the Northern Hemisphere summer.

He was off-limits to media yesterday.

"He's just come from the south of France, which is about 40 degrees, to Invercargill, which gives you an idea of where he's at," Young said.

"After 44 hours (travelling), I think he's a wee bit tired. We will just have to see how he shapes up.

"It will take a couple of days to get over the jet lag, so we'll just have to monitor it day by day with him. I think the important thing at this stage is rest."

McMullen is a first or second five-eighth and has been flown halfway across the globe to bolster an injury-depleted Stags' back division.

Centre Gavin Williams is out for the season after finger surgery while winger Ryan Glover and first five-eighth Andy Miller should be fit again in three to four weeks.

McMullen is also a handy goalkicker and will handle those duties until Miller returns.

McMullen seems certain to be at least named in the Stags' 22-strong squad for their division one national provincial championship opener on Saturday night but it may be asking too much to start him.

He does not have much time to get up to speed with the Stags' game plan or backline moves.

"He will want to have some sessions with the backs but we haven't really discussed that yet," Young said of the possibility of McMullen starting.

"We'll really have to see how he shapes up."

Young and Brown will name their team tomorrow and it could include veteran outside back Pailate Fili who is making a swift recovery from a serious hamstring injury.

Fili has been given the all-clear to resume full training this week. If he comes through training he will probably take the injured Glover's spot on the right wing.

Young also said usual first-choice loosehead prop Keith Cameron would be considered for selection against Waikato.

Cameron only returned to rugby on Saturday for the Southland development team when he played about 30 minutes against its Otago counterpart. Cameron had been sidelined for six weeks after a hernia operation.

"We also had a technical forward session today and he (Cameron) is looking good actually," Young said.