The All Blacks look set to be without two of their most experienced players in Ma’a Nonu and Jerome Kaino for the second Bledisloe Cup test.
Nonu (shoulder) and flanker Kaino (elbow) have been ruled out of the second test after picking up injuries in last weekends 12-12 stalemate with the Wallabies.
Assistant coach Ian Foster didn’t provide specifics but did say;
“They had scans yesterday, and we’ll know more about that tomorrow, but it’s highly unlikely they’ll be playing on Saturday.”
Neither player was able to train today and Foster admitted the outlook was pretty negative. “The signs are they won’t be playing on Saturday,” he added.
The loss of two of the teams most influential players will be seen as a big blow to the All Blacks who are looking to bounce back with a victory this weekend.
In Nonu they have lost one of the most experienced international operators in world rugby who has developed his game over the last two years to become a stand-out inside centre.
The return of Kaino to the All Blacks has been seen as a huge boost to the side after his time in Japan, however in Liam Messam they have an ideal replacement.
Replacing Nonu on the other hand may be slightly more difficult with neither Ryan Crotty or Malakai Fekitoa providing a like-for-like replacement.
Many will be expecting Crotty to step into Nonu’s place given his experience in the 12 shirt, however perceptions that he is too similar to outside centre Conrad Smith could instead see Malakai Fekitoa take the shirt.
Although Fekitoa is more used to spending time at outside centre, he has been training in the 12 role and could be seen as a long-term option there by the All Blacks.
Fekitoa has been a specialist centre all of this breakthrough season and Foster admitted today that he was viewed primarily as a bench cover option at No 12 in the national setup.
“So we’ve got to weigh that up versus the likes of Ryan coming in and carrying on what he did [in Sydney].”
Foster said it was preferable to have complimentary pieces in midfield, but not absolutely necessary.
“Whoever goes in there has got to have all the skillsets we need for 12. We don’t want someone just to hit the ball up hard, they’ve got to be a thinking player, they’ve got to be able to pass, and to be able kick and assess situations.”
How do you think this injury news will affect the All Blacks’ preparations for the second Bledisloe test?