All Blacks' injury count mounts

Sun, 17 Aug 2014 06:27
Large ma a nonu   jerome kaino

New Zealand were counting the cost of their drawn Rugby Championship opener against Australia and could be without three key players next week.

Blockbusting centre All Black Ma'a Nonu remained in doubt for next weekend's Bledisloe Cup return clash against Australia, as the New Zealanders counted the cost of their drawn Rugby Championship opener.

The All Blacks faced harsh criticism as they headed home from Sydney, having been scuppered one short of a world record 18 consecutive victories by the 12-all draw at the weekend.

"And in truth, they should feel they did well to hang on for the draw," wrote the Herald on Sunday's Gregor Paul.

"Australia looked the more likely winner and on balance, played more of the rugby: exerted more of the pressure."

As other media outlets took a similar line, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen faced the prospect of starting over again without the powerful centre Nonu, who was to have a scan on an injured shoulder on his return to New Zealand.

"I'd say we'd be sweating on whether or not he will be right next week," said Hansen - as he also sweated on medical reports from captain Richie McCaw and fellow flank Jerome Kaino.

Kaino was to have a scan on an injured elbow, while McCaw, who suffered a shoulder injury, was positive about his prospects of playing in the return Test in Auckland next Saturday.

Veteran centre Conrad Smith, who missed the Sydney Test to be with his expectant wife, was also expected to be available.

The New Zealand news media, meanwhile, were highly critical of the All Blacks performance as they began their defence of the Rugby Championship crown in the Southern Hemisphere series also featuring South Africa and Argentina.

Under the headline: "Hansen admits All Blacks 'gutted' to miss win", the Stuff website added: "To that they might have added relieved at escaping with a draw they scarcely deserved."

Fairfax Media journalist Mark Hinton said the 12-all stalemate was "flattering" to the All Blacks who were "outplayed in the second half by a Wallabies outfit who just weren't good enough to close out a victory that was theirs for the taking."

There were no tries in the Test with all points coming from penalties with Radio Sport highlighting the All Blacks disciplinary problems.

They not only lost the penalty count 14-9, but prop Wyatt Crockett and flyhalf Beauden Barrett were both sin-binned, "taking the number of yellows cards issued against the All Blacks to seven in the last 10 Tests".

Source: AFP

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Australia v New Zealand 8 | 42
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EP Kings v Boland 10 | 28
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