Ma'a Nonu available for Pumas, says Hansen

TOBY ROBSON
Last updated 15:50 31/08/2014
Ma'a Nonu
MICHAEL BRADLEY/Fairfax NZ

Ma'a Nonu is available to resume his midfield position when the All Blacks play Argentina.

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Ma'a Nonu is fit and available to resume his midfield combination with Conrad Smith when the All Blacks play Argentina in Napier on Saturday.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confirmed today Nonu had overcome the shoulder injury that kept him out of the Bledisloe Cup bloodbath in Auckland two weeks ago.

Although the dreadlocked one was in business attire and the rest of the side in training gear at this afternoon's team debrief, Hansen said there were no doubts about his second five-eighth's fitness.

"We're sure [he's fit], but we're waiting to see because there is a whole week of training to go yet. At this stage we expect him to be available, but we don't know the team until Thursday," Hansen told media at the Napier War Memorial.

Hansen is keeping his selection cards close to his test, but Nonu would seem a certainty to come back into the starting side after his replacement Ryan Crotty broke his cheekbone during the 51-20 win over the Wallabies.

Nonu injured his shoulder during the All Blacks dour 12-12 draw with Australia in Sydney three weeks ago with Crotty playing a key role in the rematch at Eden Park.

Malakai Fekitoa took over shortly after halftime in that match would be the other viable option to start at second five-eighth.

The All Blacks made a low key arrival in Napier today with Hawke's Bay's Ranfurly Shield winning provincial team stealing their thunder ahead of what will be just the second time the All Blacks have played a test at McLean Park.

The early theme for the All Blacks is not getting carried away with the massive high of their Bledisloe Cup win with Hansen quick to talk up the plucky Pumas.

"They'll [the All Blacks forwards] have to front up at least as well as they did last week and that's about being accountable for their preparation and their roles, that's the start point," Hansen said. "We have to put a big full stop on the performance two weeks ago and get ourselves mentally and physically right for this encounter on Saturday."

Only lock Patrick Tuipulotu and loose forward Jerome Kaino are unavailable, both due to injury.

Though the All Blacks released ten players to national provincial championship duties, little used openside Sam Cane and hooker Keven Mealamu were not available to Bay of Plenty and Auckland respectively.

Hansen said both decisions were based around common sense.

"We're one loosie own with Jerome out and we didn't want to take the risk of losing another one. He's [Cane] fit enough, his testing results are good and he's had a wee bit of rugby with us and we're comfortable with him not playing this week.

"Kevvy's been getting game time [in the tests] and he's an old soldier who doesn't need too much. A week off doesn't hurt him."

Argentina are based in Auckland for most of the week, but Hansen said he was expecting a stern test from the Rugby Championship's newest side.

"You could easily dismiss them because of what's happened in the past, but anyone who is watching them will certainly respect them," he said of the Puma's two close losses to South Africa this year.

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