25 hours ago
Vagana out, Jones in
Standoff Nigel Vagana will be available for the Tri-Nations final should the Kiwis make it and he could yet partner Stacey Jones in the halves, with the Kiwi halfback set to extend his international comeback against France on Saturday morning.
Jones received clearance from his club Les Catalans to play against the French in Toulouse after Vagana receive a one-match ban for a careless high tackle on Great Britain halfback Paul Deacon.
Vagana's swinging arm left Deacon requiring major facial surgery but the offence was not considered to be on the more serious side of the scale and Vagana, who was also fined Stg500 ($NZ1300), will sit out just the match against France.
Kiwis coach Brian McClennan said Vagana's tackle was "accident rather than an infringement" but declined to criticise an international disciplinary panel for punishing him at all.
"It is up to judiciary to make the calls and we just have to accept what they hand down," McClennan said.
"They have handed him a one-week suspension and we will live with that.
"It is a test match that he will miss out on against France but he will be available should we make the final, which is good."
With Vagana widely expected to be suspended for inflicting injuries on Deacon that were described by the Great Britain team doctor as "life threatening", a contingency plan for his absence had been put in place, McClennan said.
"Les Catalans had agreed to let Stacey help out should Nigel be suspended so that will happen."
Motu Tony or David Faiumu would partner Jones in the halves against the French, McClennan said.
Jones will fly back to New Zealand on Sunday to be with partner Rachelle, who is due to be induced with the couple's third child late next week.
McClennan said he wasn't "at this stage" expecting Jones to return to Britain should the Kiwis make the final.
McClennan was to catch an early return flight from France and will be in Hull on Sunday morning for the match between Great Britain and Australia that will determine his side's fate.
New Zealand will only reach the final if the Kangaroos win or draw, or lose by more than eight points, against the Lions in Hull on Saturday.