Carter boost for NZ; French setback
Carter boost for NZ; French setbackSHARE
Ace All Black flyhalf Dan Carter has been cleared to play in next week's third Test against France, while Les Bleus have lost two key players.
Influential back row forward Louis Picamoles and veteran pivot Frederic Michalak were both injured in Saturday's second Test here, won by the All Blacks 30-0, and have been ruled out for next week.
A cracked hand bone sidelined Carter from the first Test in Auckland, won 23-13 and Saturday's second Test victory which allowed the All Blacks to wrap up the series with a game to spare.
But coach Steve Hansen said his backline general was ready to play again and he should have a full squad to pick from for the third Test in New Plymouth, including captain Kieran Read and lock Sam Whitelock.
Read was reduced to a near walk for a period late in the first half on Saturday when he suffered a blow to the back and Whitelock required treatment for a knock to an elbow.
"Everyone should be available for selection, including DC [Dan Carter], so that's good news," Hansen said Sunday.
"But clearly there's a few guys that are sore. Reado [Read] being one, and Sam Whitelock has got a sore elbow just to name a couple. Everyone is expected to be available."
Lock Brodie Retallick pulled a hamstring last week and is expected to be out for three weeks but Hansen said he would not be bringing in a replacement.
He also indicated he may make changes for the third Test, possibly looking at new squad members Charles Piutau, Francis Saili and Steven Luatua.
"Obviously the series has been won, we've talked about taking risks, so perhaps we may have an opportunity to make some changes," he said.
French coach Philippe Saint-Andre was left to contemplate a team without the rugged Picamoles, who was stretchered off on Saturday with a bruised hip, and Michalak who injured the same shoulder he dislocated earlier in the year.
"Both players are out for Saturday," Saint-Andre confirmed after the experienced Picamoles, with 38 Tests to his credit, required hospital treatment.
However, he refused to believe France would not be competitive in the third Test in Hamilton despite going scoreless against the All Blacks for the first time on Saturday.
"I just hope we learn from these mistakes and carry on to play with pride because I think guys worked very hard for 80 minutes. Other French teams would have lost by 50 or more here."