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Carter and Co bolster All Blacks

Sun, 01 Sep 2013 10:07
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Eight players called up to the squad
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The All Blacks look set to welcome back star flyhalf Dan Carter from injury as they returned to training ahead of their Rugby Championship clash with the Pumas next weekend.

The bulk of the squad - excluding 10 players who were released for provincial duty - reassembled for their first training session in Hamilton on Sunday following a timely week-long break.

The defending champions look to have recovered from their flyhalf injury crisis as first-choice No.10 Carter and Beauden Barrett are both likely to be available for selection.

Veteran centre Ma’a Nonu is in doubt for the Round Three Test due to an ankle injury, while tighthead Owen Franks (groin) and flank Liam Messam (hamstring) have been ruled out.

All Black coach Steve Hansen said Carter was a possible option at No.12 should Nonu be unavailable due to a lack of experienced midfielders in the squad.

Hansen called up eight players to train with the squad, the most notable being Taranaki hooker Rhys Marshall, who joins the squad as part of Hansen’s new initiative to allow hookers to be integrated into a Test week to gain experience and mentorship from veterans Keven Mealamu and Andrew Hore.

Ben Afeaki (North Harbour), loose forwards Brad Shield (Wellington) and Luke Whitelock (Canterbury), flyhalf Colin Slade (Canterbury) and utility backs Francis Saili (North Harbour), Frank Halai (Counties) and Ryan Crotty (Canterbury) complete the called up training group.

With a view towards the future, Hansen could hand a Test debut to either Saili or Crotty at inside centre should Nonu be ruled out.

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