Cane not the All Blacks' only headache
TEAM UPDATE: All Black captain Sam Cane could miss the pivotal Rugby Championship clash against Australia in Auckland at the weekend.
Cane took only a limited part in training on Tuesday, as he recovers from a head injury.
Cane came off after a blow to the head early in New Zealand’s 39-37 win over Australia in Melbourne last Thursday – when the All Blacks secured the Bledisloe Cup for the 20th season in a row.
Coach Ian Foster said Cane had passed a Head Injury Assessment after the match, but New Zealand’s captain broke off early from Tuesday’s training session.
There are doubts also over centre David Havili, who also came off in the win against Australia with a head knock.
All Blacks forward Jason Ryan would not be drawn on the fitness of the pair.
“The boys with HIAs are going through their protocols,” Ryan told reporters in Auckland.
“We’ll do everything we can to get that right.
“There will be no risks at all.”
Meanwhile, Ardie Savea will come straight back into the All Black team after missing last week’s Bledisloe Cup Test for the birth of his son.
The line-breaking loose forward announced the birth of Kove Masina-Moon Savea, his third child with wife Saskia, on social media on Monday.
Assistant coach Jason Ryan confirmed Savea had reported for duty “fresh and selectable” in Auckland, where the All Blacks are expecting to face a physical Wallabies side on Saturday.
The Wallabies will look to exact a measure of revenge at Eden Park this weekend by denying the All Blacks a Rugby Championship, although pinching it themselves with an improbable 68-point win is out of the question.
New Zealand and South Africa lead the four-nation competition standings with 14 points (for three wins and two bonus points), with the All Blacks on top with a 13-point better differential than the Springboks.
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It means even if the Wallabies are unable to break their 36-year hoodoo and topple the All Blacks at Eden Park, holding their Trans-Tasman rivals to a small margin could allow South Africa to snatch the Rugby Championship when they play hours later against Argentina in Durban.
For that reason, Ryan says the All Blacks are preparing like they would for a World Cup final.
“One hundred percent it’s a final,” he said.
“It’s a New Zealand-Australia Test match at Eden Park and there’s a lot on the line. We’re treating it as a final and we’ve prepared accordingly.”
Ryan said the crucial bonus point was “definitely in the thinking but it’s not front of mind. You’ve got to win the game [first]”.
The All Blacks have spent the last few days fuming about a serious knee injury to Quinn Tupaea, caused by Darcy Swain’s illegal challenge, for which the Australian lock will face a Sanzaar disciplinary hearing on Wednesday night.
Beauden Barrett told media on Monday it was a “free shot”, while Aaron Smith said he expected the Wallabies to “front up physically” again.
“They’re going to pick a team that’s going to try and beat us up, they’re going to try and pick a team that’s going to want to play with the ball,” he said.
“Everything boils down to this weekend and we’ve given ourselves a shot. I’m pretty excited now the review’s done to get the plans for this week and hoe in.”
Sources: AFP & AAP