Rugby World Cup 2011
Carter a concern for All Blacks
ESPNscrum Staff
September 13, 2011
New Zealand's Dan Carter slots the opening penalty of the World Cup, New Zealand v Tonga, Rugby World Cup, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, September 9, 2011
Fly-half Dan Carter could miss New Zealand's clash with Japan on Friday © Getty Images

The All Blacks could be without playmaker Dan Carter for Friday's Rugby World Cup Pool A meeting with Japan in Hamilton.

The Crusaders No.10 took a blow to his back in New Zealand's tournament opener against Tonga in Auckland and assistant coach Steve Hansen revealed on Tuesday that Carter could sit out the game with the Japanese.

"He got hit in the back, so he's a bit sore. We'll just have to see how he goes," Hansen said.

Hansen also hinted that centre Conrad Smith and fullback Mils Muliaina, both of whom were dropped for the win over the Tongans, could earn recalls on Friday. Smith lost his place in the New Zealand midfield to Sonny Bill Williams, while Israel Dagg was surprisingly entrusted with the No.15 jersey ahead of Muliaina.

"You might see Conrad Smith come back into the centres. I don't think too many people are going to see that as a negative," he said. "You might see someone like Mils get a start so we can sort out which of those two (Muliaina and Dagg) is playing the best to go through the rest of the tournament."

There have been several calls within the New Zealand media for head coach Graham Henry to resist any temptation to rotate his squad and name his strongest side for the Japan clash. Hansen is expecting some changes but the suspects that they will be kept to a minimum.

"We've had one game; we've selected a side that we believe was pretty much the strongest side we could have picked for that particular game (against Tonga) and the core of that side you'll see on Friday," he said.

"But in saying that, it is a long tournament and you're going to need to bring people in and out of it on occasion, but not wholesale changes.

"Everyone out there is probably feeling a little bit of pressure because it's been 24 years since we had Webb Ellis (the World Cup trophy). We're not worried about what other people are saying. Our job is to make sure that we stay to the plan we've elected and we're confident our plan is the right one. You know, we're only one game into it and you just need to trust us that we'll get this task done."

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