George Moala's injury creates challenges for the All Blacks

Malakai Fekitoa faces a big test on Saturday.
ANDREW CORNAGA / PHOTOSPORT

Malakai Fekitoa faces a big test on Saturday.

This is where coaching becomes critical.

It remains to be seen whether George Moala goes on to become one of the great All Blacks centres. Or even a fixture in the side. What's certain is that his injury-enforced absence from Saturday's Bledisloe Cup clash with Australia leaves New Zealand a little exposed in midfield. 

Ryan Crotty is a reliable, admirable type who has never let down any side he's played for. Beyond him, though, are the faltering Malakai Fekitoa and uncapped Anton Lienert-Brown.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster predicts a real contest against Australia on Saturday.
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All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster predicts a real contest against Australia on Saturday.

Little wonder Australian media types were using words such as "vulnerable" within earshot of All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, on Tuesday.

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"Well it's certainly different, isn't? People are used to the [Ma'a] Nonu-Smith [combination] and chuck Sonny Bill [Williams] in there as well. I wouldn't call it vulnerable, but I'd certainly say we're building combinations," Foster said.
It's a big few weeks in the career of All Blacks midfield back Malakai Fekitoa.
Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.

It's a big few weeks in the career of All Blacks midfield back Malakai Fekitoa.

"We've been through that in June and we learned a lot about our guys in June and actually they learned a lot and actually passed a few tests. But this is certainly going to be the next step up for us.

"There's no hiding the fact that we've got players that are less experienced than the players who've been there in the past. But if you look at the guys we've got there Ryan's had a number of tests under his belt and Malakai's the same."

Fekitoa burst into the scene a year ago, capturing the imagination of many with his energetic performances for the Highlanders.

But there - at least to the untrained eye - appears to have been a lessening in his effectiveness this season, along with the introduction of the odd error.

A knee injury will sideline All Blacks centre George Moala for several weeks.
Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.nz

A knee injury will sideline All Blacks centre George Moala for several weeks.

There is no such thing as bad All Blacks, or All Black teams, these days, but it's fair to say Saturday's likely midfield combination of Crotty and Fekitoa isn't the best New Zealand has ever fielded. That's where the quality of coaching and advice the players get takes on an extra importance.

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In other personnel news, flanker Sam Cane has come through two training sessions without incident, on his return from a head knock, while hooker Dane Coles is still not "a hundred" as he seeks to get over a rib injury. At first five-eighth, a decision has been made about which one of Beauden Barrett or Aaron Cruden will start at ANZ Stadium.

"And Lima [Sopoaga]," said Foster, to reinforce that first-five is in fact a three-horse race.

"It's been difficult, I guess. I think when you look at both teams we've both got some options with how we structure our backs, haven't we? It's probably not easy for us to guess what they're doing and it's probably not that easy for them to guess what were doing

"At the end of the day whoever goes out on the park for us is going to be geared up and we know it's going to be exactly the same with the Wallabies. I think there's a lot of talk about who's starting for us [but] it's about the squad, it's about the 23 and how we balance that and we know that a similar mentality [exists] with the Wallabies.

"So I wouldn't get too hooked up about who's starting and who's finishing. It's going to be about the full 80 minutes."

 

 

 

 

 

 - Dominion Post

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