Could knee keep Victor Vito from second test?
RICHARD KNOWLER IN AUCKLAND
A nasty head cut forced Victor Vito off Eden Park last night but it is a knee injury that could prevent him meeting Ireland in the second test in Christchurch next weekend.
Blindside flanker Vito left the field mid-way through the second half of the 42-10 win at Eden Park with blood streaming into his eyes following a head clash with Irish skipper Brian O'Driscoll.
Although the head wound looked dramatic it is his knee injury that is causing more concern.
"Victor Vito cut his eye but he also pulled-up with a nagging medial ligament strain,'' All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said this afternoon.
"We're not sure where that is going to go. We'll just give it a couple of days and make some assessments after that.''
Last night Vito was replaced by Adam Thomson who scored a try soon after taking the field when he grabbed an inside pass from No 8 Kieran Read following a 5m scrum.
Highlander Thomson looms as a logical replacement for Vito if he is ruled out of the test. Hansen said no replacement would be brought into the squad.
The All Blacks selectors will not name their team for the second test until Thursday but it seems unlikely many changes will be made.
With World Cup wins Cory Jane and Richard Kahui scratched from the series because of injuries, Zac Guildford started on the less familiar right wing last night to make way for Julian Savea.
While Savea earned a heap of plaudits for grabbing a hat-trick in his test debut, Guildford struggled to inject himself into the game and was replaced by Ben Smith in the 52nd minute.
Guildford hopes to earn another start but has received little indication whether he will be retained.
"I don't know. I wouldn't mind another game or two, I will just have to see if I am picked. I probably didn't find the space I have found in previous weeks. I just tried to work hard, so there is still plenty to work on for me.''
Guildford also hinted Ireland could face a more clinical and intensified attack from the All Blacks backline if the weather allows them to use the ball effectively at AMI Stadium next Saturday night.
The truncated week, forced upon the New Zealanders because of their Super Rugby commitments, gave them limited time to prepare yet the backline was surprisingly fluent.
"We hardly touched our attack during the week, so we relied on our individual flair. Once we really get into our team patterns and start working I think we can build a lot more,'' Guildford added.
"We only had the Tuesday and Thursday trainings and the captain's run on the Friday. After another three sessions next week I think we will be a lot better.''
Who was the best-performed All Blacks forward on the northern tour?