All Blacks call on Matt Todd for injury cover
The All Blacks have called in Crusaders flanker Matt Todd as injury cover as they lick their Super Rugby wounds heading into the opening June test against England on Saturday.
It's a tricky, and short, transition for All Blacks coach Steve Hansen into the first June test, with his players all having featured in important Super Rugby matches at the weekend, and many feeling the impact of some pretty physical games.
Chiefs openside Sam Cane is one of those, the 22-year-old 14-test No 7 picking up a right knee strain in his side's 33-17 spanking by the Waratahs in New Plymouth on Saturday - a second straight defeat for the back to back champions.
Cane's readiness to front at Eden Park on Saturday night, most likely as bench cover for skipper Richie McCaw, will be assessed later in the week but Todd's call up confirms he's still next cab off the rank in the openside pecking order.
Ironically, Todd himself has had to sit out the last month of Super Rugby to repair a calf injury, but is clearly now well enough to be placed on standby.
Crusaders prop Joe Moody is also with the All Blacks this week as an additional training body. Blues loosehead Tony Woodcock picked up a hip knock in Saturday night's victory over the Hurricanes, and he's one of a number who will need to be nursed through the first few days of preparations.
Veteran All Black midfielder Conrad Smith today said the transition from the business end of Super Rugby straight into the test environment was one that always tested players.
"The June tests with the break in Super Rugby is something we've had three years' experience with now. We've always talked about it being a challenge but I think we've dealt with it well in the past," he said.
"These first couple of days you've got to wait till everyone gets on that same level, and hopefully by Thursday we'll all be ready to play a test match physically, and go together towards Saturday night.
"Yesterday was hard. I was still trying to get over the loss [to the Blues] on Saturday night and then you're getting your head into the All Black environment. I actually find it harder going the other way. We met last night, and the excitement is pretty easy, and training today you soon get your mind on what you're here for."
And as far as Smith is concerned that's a staunch English challenge at Eden Park to open an historic three-test series - regardless of the absence of players from Northampton and Saracens who are only due to arrive in New Zealand on Wednesday.
"They're a very good team, and you only have to realise from the last two test matches [between the teams], if you put them together they've probably been the better side over those last two years.
"We've got a lot of respect for them. I know outside of the team, the media and wider public don't probably share our views if you took a snapshot of what's been said about them, particularly with the so-called weakened side.
"But we're very respectful and that hopefully will make us prepare well for a big challenge."
Hansen's squad of 31 had a light recovery run today and will ease their way into training this week, probably not hitting full stride until Thursday's major training run of the week.