Dan Carter's slow recovery to full fitness with his troublesome groin has All Blacks coach Steve Hansen admitting the star five-eighths could see action at 12 against Ireland.
It seems the All Blacks might be prepared to replicate the Crusaders' ploy and play Carter at second five-eighths if his groin isn't 100 percent for the extra kicking responsibilities that come at No 10.
That would be a blow for the in-form Sonny Bill Williams and an even worse scenario for incumbent No 12 Ma'a Nonu whose form is sliding at the Blues.
Hansen made it clear Carter was his preferred No 10 but it seems he's keen to have involved any way that's possible.
"DC in my mind is the best first five in world rugby," Hansen said. answering fans' questions on a video released by the New Zealand Rugby Union.
"Right now, though, he is coming back from a groin injury which is limiting his kicking at the moment so, wisely, the Crusaders are playing him at 12.
"When he comes into our camp if he's able to kick goals then he'll certainly be starting at 10. But through necessity, from time to time he may also have to play 12, depending on what we have on the bench and how that groin is."
The All Blacks have camps in Auckland (May 20-22) and Wellington (May 27-29) with the 30-man squad to be named on June 3. They play three tests against Ireland on consecutive Saturdays, starting at Eden Park on June 9.
Carter has looked in good form since returning to the Crusaders after tearing his groin so severely on the eve of the All Blacks final World Cup pool match against Canada that he required surgery.
His return to action in the red and black jersey has coincided with the Crusaders' reviving their season after a sloppy start in his absence.
But Carter admitted that the groin has still been troubling him and he's happy for the impressive young Tom Taylor to handle the kicking duties, so as to not apply unnecessary pressure on the groin.
He has only played two of his seven Super Rugby matches at first-five and been handed the goalkicking duties just once.
If Carter can't play at 10 it seems Aaron Cruden would be the logical choice there given his encouraging form for the Chiefs.
Hansen also suggested that Chiefs centre Richard Kahui could be his key utility, covering the allround game of the injured Isaia Toeava.
With incumbent centre Conrad Smith in commanding form for the Hurricanes, Kahui might be hard-pressed to claim the No 13 jersey. But Hansen noted his abilities at wing, fullback and second-five make him an integral part of the squad.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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