All Blacks face anxious wait on duo
INJURY UPDATE: The All Blacks are sweating on the fitness of two key players ahead of their penultimate test of the year against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The New Zealanders are tipped to field a full-strength side at Aviva Stadium after a team of second-stringers and injury returnees scrapped to an ugly 47-9 win over Italy in Rome over the weekend.
That will likely see the return of most of those who featured in New Zealand’s 54-16 thumping of Wales a fortnight ago, although there are some who remain in doubt to take to the field in the Irish capital.
One of those players is scrumhalf Brad Weber, who left the match against the Azzurri after just nine minutes due to a head knock, which he didn’t return from following a failed head injury assessment.
However, All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod told media on Monday that the 30-year-old, who rivals TJ Perenara as the squad’s first-choice No 9 in the absence of Aaron Smith, remains a chance to play in Ireland.
“Brad went through the normal protocols this morning and he’s woken up symptom-free, but he’ll need to go through an independent concussion specialist process this week at some stage, so he’s a wait-and-see, really,” McLeod said.
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It’s a similar situation for wing Sevu Reece, who, alongside Weber, was a star replacement for the All Blacks against Wales and scored his second try in as many outings on this end-of-year tour at Stadio Olimpico.
Reece appeared to injure his leg in the process of scoring against Italy, though, but could still find himself in contention for this weekend’s clash after emerging relatively unscathed in the wake of his side’s victory.
“I think Sevu was the only other one. He got a bit of bone bruising, but he seems to have been okay today,” McLeod said.
Together, Weber and Reece join prop Angus Ta’avao as the only injury concern in the All Blacks squad as they head into their final two tests of 2021.
Ta’avao dislocated his elbow during a training session in the lead-up to the Welsh test, and All Blacks head coach Ian Foster said last week that he won’t be considered for selection until next week’s season-ending test against France.
In more positive injury news, McLeod confirmed that veteran lock Brodie Retallick is fit and firing after missing the test against Italy due to a shoulder injury he sustained during the win over Wales.
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“Brodie trained fully last Thursday, so he’s good to go,” McLeod said.
Primed to start in the second row alongside captain Sam Whitelock, Retallick could be joined in the matchday squad by Dane Coles and Sam Cane, both of whom impressed McLeod with their outings against Italy.
The match was the first test the pair had started following lengthy sideline spells, with Cane having been ruled out between March and October with a serious pectoral injury.
Coles, meanwhile, missed the entire Rugby Championship with a persistent calf complaint, but both caught McLeod’s eye as two of the few standouts in a messy All Blacks win last week.
“Two guys that have come back, though, Dane and Sam have both pulled up really well, so we’re really happy with that.”
The All Blacks will name their team to face Ireland on Thursday.
By Alex McLeod, Rugbypass