All Blacks dealing with Conrad Smith situation
The All Blacks management were standing by their phones last night as Conrad Smith's dash back to Wellington for the birth of his first child threw not so much a spanner in the works as a crinkle in their well-laid Bledisloe plans.
Publicly, the team's movers and shakers - coach Steve Hansen and skipper Richie McCaw -- were putting on brave faces as they spoke of the fallout from Smith's unplanned test-eve departure after wife Lee-Anne's pregnancy hit the fast-forward button.
''Lee's been due to have a baby in a couple of weeks but it looks like she's going to come a little bit early,'' Hansen said after receiving a 2am call on the change in status, and probable loss of his 77-test centre for the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship opener.
''Hopefully everything goes well, and if it goes really well he could possibly be back. We're not holding our breath.''
Last night an All Blacks spokesman told Fairfax Media there had been ''no updates'' on Smith's situation, though it's understood they were willing to reaccommodate their centre providing he was back in the city by early afternoon today.
Clearly, mother nature would need to play her part in that.
Smith was certainly in a hurry to get by his wife's side, arriving in Wellington without any bags and making a hurried departure from the airport via a car waiting to sprint him to the delivery ward.
That's understandable, with the 32-year-old clearly keen to be there for such an auspicious moment, and his team only too willing to jettison him for it.
''If you let those things influence what happens on the weekend, you haven't really got your environment set up right,'' McCaw said at the captain's run on a sun-drenched Olympic Stadium.
''Hopefully everyone's aware of what's going on, has prepared as such and they'll be ready to go.''
It's not like the All Blacks haven't been here before either, with late changes such a regular occurrence they have the drill pretty much down pat.
''It's an exciting time for one of our team members and his wife and their family,'' Hansen said.
''I think back to the birth of my own children. It's just the way it is and we'll get on with it.''
It's not like Plan B is such a horrid alternative.
Highlanders rookie sensation Malakai Fekitoa now makes his second-straight test start at centre, and Ryan Crotty comes onto the bench.
Fekitoa is no Smith - who is, frankly? - but he's a heck of an exciting talent, whose combination with Ma'a Nonu has explosiveness written all over it.
His matchup with Wallaby linchpin Adam Ashley-Cooper could be fun to watch.
''We've got every faith in him, he'll be fine,'' Hansen said.