Unpalatable as life without Beauden Barrett may be, it's a reality the Hurricanes are preparing for ahead of their crunch Super Rugby match against the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday.
Barrett injured a hip during the Hurricanes' 18-16 loss to the Highlanders on Friday night and literally limped his way into the All Blacks training camp in Christchurch yesterday.
That's made for a nervous few days in Wellington where Hurricanes backs coach Alama Ieremia is making contingency plans in case his prolific first five-eighth is ruled out.
"That's the issue we have to face this week," Ieremia said yesterday. "We have two specialist first five-eighth's in Marty Banks and James Marshall, but its about asking, do we go with somebody who has played there before and is game hardened in [Tim Bateman]?
"Those discussions we will debate later on today. There are pros and cons both ways."
It's a tricky call that could have huge ramifications for the Hurricanes season.
Bateman is a second five-eighth, has struggled with knee and shoulder injuries, and has been limited in his ability to punt the ball since injuring his knee during the pre-season.
Banks probably started the season as Barrett's backup, but after being used in the opening five matches, hasn't been sighted since having a difficult night at fullback during the loss to the Highlanders in round six.
Marshall too has been out for much of the year with a toe injury and hasn't been used since back to back starts, both at fullback, against the Brumbies and Cheetahs in weeks four and five.
To compound matters, Chiefs first five-eighth Aaron Cruden has confirmed he'll make his much awaited comeback from a thumb injury against the Hurricanes.
Hence, Ieremia will be waiting with trepidation on an update on Barrett, the team's leading points scorer and first string goal kicker.
On goal kicking alone Banks may hold the upper hand when it comes to a final decision, should Barrett be ruled out, after fullback Andre Taylor missed a simple penalty in the final minutes against the Highlanders.
In hindsight Ieremia and head coach Mark Hammett may wish they had pulled their star first five-eighth earlier against the Highlanders.
"It was disappointing with Beaudy's injury early in that game. We pretty much struggled throughout," Ieremia said.
"Credit to him for gutsing it out, but it did alter our shape and some of our decision making. Those sort of things you learn on the run, hopefully we have him again this week."
It's not the only concern for a Hurricanes side that needs to win its four remaining matches to have any hope of reaching the playoffs.
Hooker Dane Coles is another player Hurricanes management will be hoping comes through the All Blacks camp in good condition after missing the last match due to a back injury.
While Motu Matu'u and Ash Dixon both played well enough against the Highlanders, their lineout throwing was a major issue.
Hurricanes lock James Broadhurst said it was an area that had to improve drastically against a Chiefs side that's struggled at the set piece all season.
"When you operate at 50 per cent lineout and 50 per cent scrum launch it is tough to win any game. It's the same every week, you have to have set piece and if you disrupt theirs it goes a long way to getting the right result," he said. "Four [throws] weren't straight and two were overthrown, so probably the throws were the problem [last] weekend."
- The Dominion Post
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