All Blacks brush off injury crisis

Sun, 25 Aug 2013 07:25
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The latest flyhalf injury to hit the All Blacks seems a minor setback for coach Steve Hansen who has some impressive depth at his disposal.

The latest flyhalf injury to hit the All Blacks seems a minor setback for coach Steve Hansen whose major issue appears to be who to cut when all players are fit.

Tom Taylor, New Zealand's fourth-ranked flyhalf, has been sidelined for three weeks with a rib injury suffered late in Saturday's 27-16 win over Australia where he made his Test debut with a confident display.

But such is the depth of New Zealand's talent pool Hansen noted that he has the luxury of calling on the fifth pick off the flyhalf conveyor belt - Colin Slade - who played 10 Tests until he was injured in the 2011 World Cup quarterfinals.

Apart from flyhalf, injuries to senior players in other key positions have had little impact on the quality and precision of the World Cup holders who demolished the Wallabies in Sydney 47-29 a week before the Wellington win.

While Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie was left wondering how to lift his mentally scarred unit who were comprehensively beaten in successive matches, Hansen's task is how best to utilise his deep talent pool.

"We've always set out to have enough depth to cover the unexpected. We've got an environment that allows people to fit in easily," he said, explaining the growing number of quality internationals at his disposal. His target is to produce the first team to win consecutive World Cups as the All Blacks look to back up their 2011 success at the 2015 championship.

Taylor had been rushed into the side for Saturday's match after injuries to the top three flyhalves in the All Blacks pecking order - Dan Carter, Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.

Hansen expects Carter and Barrett to be ready for their next Test against Argentina in Hamilton on September 7, saying the medical staff were "reasonably comfortable that they'll probably be right".

But if there are any doubts he has the Test-hardened Slade training with the squad.

Ben Smith, who has scored five tries in two Tests against the Wallabies, has been the starting and starring right wing while Cory Jane recovers from a knee injury.

Steven Luatua, a bruising 22-year-old blindside flank, and lock Brodie Retallick have also impressed while Liam Messam and Luke Romano are on the injured list.

Ma'a Nonu is to have a scan on an injured ankle this week and if he is ruled out for the next Test, Hansen blooded centre Ryan Crotty in the first Test against Australia.

He also has six props training with the squad where Owen Franks is carrying a groin injury.

Meanwhile in the Wallabies camp, McKenzie now has two weeks to find a winning formula before their next Rugby Championship Test against South Africa, but would not be drawn on whether many changes were likely.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and have a look. It's a different game next time, different opposition, we'll probably play the game a little differently," he said when reviewing Saturday's performance.

"Kicking worked (for the All Blacks) last week. We kicked more this week and were more in the game as a result so you stick to what's working.

"I'm not saying that's our preference but that's what works. It's just a matter of mixing the two up."