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Saturday, October 30, 1999 Published at 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK

Mehrtens cleared for semi-final

Andrew Mehrtens is one of New Zealand's most important players

New Zealand's inspirational fly-half Andrew Mehrtens has been cleared to play in the Rugby World Cup semi-final against France on Sunday.

The All Black kicking machine had been doubtful for the Twickenham showdown after damaging his left knee at the bottom of a ruck in the All Blacks' 30-18 quarter-final win over Scotland last weekend.

But, after Mehrtens proved his fitness in a tough training session on Friday, delighted coach John Hart announced: "He will start.

"He goal-kicked, he place-kicked, he punted, he got tackled, he tackled, he ran ... he did everything. You couldn't get a more physical test."

As a precaution Hart had selected stand-in outside half Tony Brown for the No.10 spot, with the proviso that Merhtens would return if fit.

Brown, an Otago playing partner of promoted scrum-half Byron Kelleher, will now be in the reserves.

Formidable challenge

The All Black's are undoubted favourites to win the semi-final clash, but the French team will pose a formidable challenge.

"They have nothing to lose and everything to win and we have got to make sure we get in and knock them over and don't let them play their game," Mehrtens said.

"The French can run and handle with skill and kick as well, so we must have no preconceptions. We don't go in with ideas set in concrete, we've got to react well on the field."

The technique - rather than physique - of the southern hemisphere sides, according to Mehrtens, is the key to their dominance.

"England missed a few opportunities against South Africa because of the accuracy of their passing," he said.

"I don't think it's physique, there's nothing worse than trying to get a flying movement going and a pass suddenly going behind you and stopping everything dead cold.

"We really haven't created a huge number of opportunities, but our strike rate's pretty high. We just have to keep finishing those off because opportunities become more crucial from now on."

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Key player: Andrew Mehrtens