A fit halfback is proving hard to come by for the Cook Islands rugby team who play their first match of the year against New Zealand province Thames Valley in Paeroa on Monday evening.
The game is the first of two hit-outs before next weekend's Rugby World Cup playoff match against Fiji in Lautoka.
The squad only came together on Friday and coach Barry George says Andrew Putairi will start in the number nine jersey this evening, despite barely having time to put his bags down.
"One of our halfbacks that was named in the squad turned up yesterday [Saturday] with a bit of a limp from club rugby last week and struggled through a training and the physio had a look at him. We sent him off for an x-ray and he had a fracture in his leg so he's gone - Charles Teraitua has had to be replaced. We've brought a boy in who we had with us last year [at the Oceania Cup] and the other halfback, who is New Zealand 19s and Bay of Plenty ITM Cup, has come up a bit sore after yesterday so he didn't take too much part today and unlikely to be involved tomorrow [Monday]. So we're carrying one halfback at the moment and he's not even actually in camp but we will get over that and that will be fixed within the 24 hours".
Barry George says the team is approaching the match as if they were playing Fiji and will employ the same tactics they intend to use in Lautoka at the end of the month.
A J Campbell
One to be added