ABs call in emergency cover for rematch
Colin Slade and Tom Taylor took turns running the All Blacks cutter today, but it will be another day before either man knows what role they will play in the Bledisloe Cup return match in Wellington.
The two Canterbury pivots could end up anywhere from starting against the Wallabies to returning to their provinces as the All Blacks' tumultuous start to the Rugby Championship continues.
Slade and Taylor were rushed into the All Blacks squad in Wellington today as injury cover for incumbents Aaron Cruden (knee) and Beauden Barrett (calf).
But All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said it was too soon to make a definitive call on the injuries picked up during Saturday's 47-29 win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
"We've sent a few guys away for scans but haven't got all the information back yet. We'll know more tomorrow morning," he said.
"We're just not sure yet. We really want to wait and see the results of the scans.
"We've brought Tom and Colin in so we will prepare them for this week [today] and make an assessment tomorrow."
That uncertainty includes lock Luke Romano (groin), but it is at first-five eighths that the All Blacks are clearly making the most thorough contingency plans.
"They [Cruden and Barrett] will be out of training today. We have a bit of a walk-through so yes, we will be putting those other two in [at first five-eighth]," Foster said. "They will be focusing on 10 but depending on the scenarios we may need one of them to cover 10-12 or 10-15, so the whole makeup of the 23 is a bit up in the air at the moment."
With Dan Carter (calf) already sidelined, the situation has obvious similarities to the 2011 Rugby World Cup where Carter, Slade, then Cruden all fell over before the final whistle of the final.
Foster joked he would not be calling Stephen Donald away from his whitebaiting, but on a more serious note was comfortable there was enough depth to cover the injuries.
"We are happy with what we've got. We've been here before. While it's disappointing for the guys who have niggles it's a great opportunity for the other two and it will give us a chance to get a read on them this week.
"Its a big change, but we feel first and foremost those guys have come in because they've earned the right to be here. And secondly it puts a bit more onus on the boys around them.
"We are just starting to feel a bit more comfortable with our game and if we have new drivers come in then it's a good opportunity for those players around them to show a bit more leadership."
Two loose forwards, Luke Whitelock and Brad Shields, have also been called up to cover Liam Messam (hamstring) and Romano.
Foster said the selectors had felt they had enough cover at lock with Jeremy Thrush already part of the squad as a wider training member.
"We've always said we are happy with our three locks and we see Steven Luatua as a six-lock cover. Represents a chance for us to have a closer look at that."
On a brighter note, midfielder Francis Saili, who was ruled out last week with an ankle injury, was now fit and available.
"We'll be running him tomorrow he's looking good. He's come through the weekend really well, better than expected," Foster said.
Ryan Crotty, who took Saili's place and ended up making his test debut in Sydney, has remained with the squad.
Hooker Dane Coles would be fit and available for selection after gaining valuable game time with Wellington.
But Foster clarified Highlanders rake Liam Coltman's callup as the first "apprentice" hooker did not signify he was ranked as the next cab off the rank.
The All Blacks will trial three young hookers over the three home test weeks in Wellington, Hamilton and Auckland in a scheme designed to introduce some young blood.
"I'll be pretty strong on that, no," Foster said when asked if Coltman was top of that pecking order.
"We've made some decisions on geography spread and their own itinerary and how we can get guys in, so no it's not a priority basis."