Flyhalf fears for All Blacks

Mon, 19 Aug 2013 07:52
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The All Blacks are facing another injury crisis at flyhalf, after their commanding 47-29 win over Australia in the opening Test of the Rugby Championship.

The All Blacks are facing another injury crisis at flyhalf, after their commanding 47-29 win over Australia in the opening Test of the Rugby Championship.

Star No. 10 Dan Carter missed last Saturday's Test with a calf muscle strain and remains unavailable for the return match at Wellington this weekend.

In Carter's absence, Aaron Cruden played an outstanding match at flyhalf in Sydney, but left the field late in the match with a knee injury.

Beauden Barrett replaced Cruden, but was also limping by the end of the match because of a sore calf.

Barrett will undergo a scan to determine the extent of the injury.

All Black coach Steve Hansen called up Canterbury backs Tom Taylor and Colin Slade as injury cover as New Zealand prepares for Saturday's match.

In all four players were called into the All Black squad this week to cover injury concerns, with the team arriving back in Wellington to prepare for the second Test - which also doubles up as a Bledisloe Cup encounter.

In the forwards All Black lock Luke Romano will undergo a scan this week to determine the extent of the groin injury suffered in the Sydney Test.

With loose forward Liam Messam already nursing a hamstring injury, the All Blacks coaches have called in Canterbury loose forward Luke Whitelock and Wellington loose forward Brad Shields.

Assistant coach Ian Foster admitted starting a new flyhalf has the potential to be disruptive.

Slade, 25, hasn't played a Test for two years.

He has battled various injuries since and endured a mixed 2013 Super Rugby season with the Highlanders.

"It's a big change, but we really feel that those guys are coming in because they've earned the right to be here," Foster said.

"If we do have new drivers come in, it's a bit more opportunity for those around them to show more leadership."

The situation has the potential to mirror the latter stages of the 2011 World Cup, when All Blacks No.10s fell like dominoes.

Carter, Slade and Cruden all went down with injuries, resulting in the much-maligned Stephen Donald famously earning a call-up for the Final against France, where he came off the bench and kicked a crucial penalty in New Zealand's 8-7 win.

Foster smiled when asked if Donald was next on his list this week.

"We're happy with what we've got.

"We've been here before and while it's disappointing for the guys who've got niggles, it's a great opportunity for the other two."

Taylor, 24, was called into the All Blacks squad as injury cover ahead of their tour-ending Test against England last December but wasn't included in the playing squad.

Replacing Cruden will be a tall order given his influence in the six-try performance in Sydney, which included a 20-point haul.

One player poised to return from injury is uncapped midfield back Francis Saili (ankle).

His unavailability last week allowed Ryan Crotty to make his debut off the reserve bench in Sydney.

Sources: AP & NZ Newswire

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