In this All Blacks environment the second training run of a test week is regarded as a "clarity" session - and it lived up to its billing today as Daniel Carter's chances of returning from injury against Argentina became crystal clear.
Carter ran freely for the opening 45 minutes of a two-hour workout and although he was exempted from the remainder of the backline drills All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen confirmed the five-star first five-eighth only headed to the sidelines as a precautionary measure.
A calf strain has ruled the All Blacks linchpin out of the inaugural Rugby Championship since the Bledisloe Cup was retained at Eden Park on August 25, but, barring misfortune during the final intensive training session on Friday (NZT), he will face Los Pumas at La Plata.
After watching Aaron Cruden take charge of the first choice back division, Carter returned to work on his kicking skills, a further indication there were no issues with his troublesome lower leg.
"He came through the session pretty good. We pulled him out after 45 minutes and he wasn't overly happy about that. He wanted to do a bit more so that is a good sign," Hansen said.
"He did everything at pace; he was fine, he didn't feel it.
"I'm pretty confident, probably about 97 per cent. He's got through two training sessions. He didn't do everything and we wouldn't expect him to."
After a light training run yesterday at their base in Quilmes, 20km from Buenos Aires' CBD, the intensity lifted a notch as the All Blacks plot to secure the new symbol of Southern Hemisphere rugby supremacy before the final leg of their road trip in South Africa next weekend.
Hansen was impressed with the squad's first decent hit out since arriving at the weekend, rating it as the team's best of the season.
However, the manner of their last two victories over Argentina in Wellington and the Springboks seven days later in Dunedin means there is no element of complacency as the All Blacks prepare to experience arguably the most unnerving atmosphere in world rugby at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata on Sunday, 12pm (NZT).
Although they are yet to celebrate their inclusion in the expanded Tri-Nations with a victory, a draw with the Springboks in Mendoza underscores Los Pumas reputation as being notoriously difficult to beat on home soil.
The All Blacks needed a late try to escape with a four-point triumph in 2001 and five years later an understrength side withstood a ferocious onslaught in the dying stages to prevail 25-19.
Hansen, though annoyed with the Argentinians spoiling at the breakdown, praised their passion, durability and expected another exhausting physical confrontation before more of the same in Soweto.
"I expect them to bring more of what they've brought to every game so far: real physicality, real enthusiasm and a big heart," he said when quizzed by local media.
And once they are conditioned to play 80 minutes of high pressure rugby Hansen warned it was inevitable one of their new "neighbours" would suffer.
"They're giving themselves plenty of opportunities to win games but in that last 20 minutes there's a lack of concentration and all of a sudden a lead or an opportunity goes missing.
"With the quality opposition they're consistently getting in this championship they're going to improve in that area and they're going to be very hard to beat."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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