ABs prop Tony Woodcock out for rest of season
The All Blacks will have to box on this year without veteran loosehead prop Tony Woodcock who will miss the rest of the season to go under the knife for shoulder surgery.
Coach Steve Hansen confirmed today at the team hotel in Auckland that Crusaders loosehead Joe Moody had officially replaced Woodcock in the All Blacks squad for the Rugby Championship.
Both Moody (head knock) and franchise team-mate Wyatt Crockett (knee) took knocks in the Super Rugby final in Sydney last weekend but Hansen confirmed both would be fit and available for selection to face the Wallabies next Saturday at ANZ Stadium.
He confirmed Crockett would likely start against the Wallabies.
But their Crusaders team-mate, lock Dominic Bird, has been ruled out for three weeks with turf toe and has been replaced in the squad by the Hurricanes' Jeremy Thrush.
''You're always going to lose somebody, it's a contact game, and it's unfortunate for Dom but it gives Thrushy an opportunity.''
Hansen said the loss of the 110-test Woodcock for the rest of the year was a negative for the team which looks to extend its test win streak to a record-breaking 18 in Sydney next Saturday, but one that had some upside for the 33-year-old.
''Every dark cloud has a bit of silver lining and for him it will be the opportunity to do something he hasn't done for 12 seasons and that's get a good off-season,'' Hansen said.
''It will be important because it will freshen him up and I'm pretty sure he'll be hungry getting into it next year.''
The coach also shrugged off the change in role for Crockett who was part of a dominant Crusaders front row in the Super Rugby final.
''The way the game is played now four props are being used every game, and the only difference is Wyatt is going to start,'' he said.
''It doesn't really matter who starts and finishes, they've just got a big job to do. The role Wyatt has now, he's the leadoff man and he's got to take the man he's scrummaging against to places.''
Hansen was also relaxed about his situation at first five-eighths, where the cracked bone in his leg suffered by Dan Carter leaves the coach going back to a Plan B that has pretty much become Plan A for the All Blacks in recent years.
Aaron Cruden, who will wear the No 10 jersey next Saturday, started all three of the June tests against England and is now well used to slotting in for the crocked Carter.
''It's unfortunate for Dan he got injured but there's not too much you can do when somebody smacks you in the leg and breaks a bone.
''We're not too concerned about the injury other than it's happened and he's missing football. From a long-term perspective we know he'll be fine and come back in and we also know we've got able replacements.''
Hansen said tonight's hitout in Albany where the All Blacks will play 40 minutes each against North Harbour and Northland was less about staking any claims for spots and more about tucking away some match play.
''The whole purpose is to give guys who haven't had any rugby a meaningful hitout, get some contact and get ready for next week.'
Most of his Crusaders contingent would not be required tonight, and to that end he had brought in Highlanders flanker Shane Christie to make up numbers, and not the Crusaders' Matt Todd.
Hansen said centre Conrad Smith would play 60 minutes tonight, and flanker Sam Cane, who hasn't played a top-level match since May, would get about 40.
Which three first-fives would you have taken on the All Blacks' northern tour?