Bledisloe Cup: New Zealand v Australia, Wellington
Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett Bledisloe doubt
August 19, 2013
Colin Slade has been called up to as cover for Aaron Cruden © Getty Images
Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett are each in doubt for the second Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia in Wellington on Saturday, rekindling memories of the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup 2011 playmaker crisis.
Starting five-eighth Cruden, Man of the Match in the 47-29 defeat of the Wallabies on Saturday, and his replacement picked up respective knee and calf injuries late in The Rugby Championship-opening Test at ANZ Stadium. They missed training on Monday having undergone scans, but they won't know their availability until Tuesday at the earliest.
All Blacks selectors have taken no chances, with veteran No.10 Dan Carter having already been ruled out for a second week with his own calf strain, calling fly-half Colin Slade and uncapped Tom Taylor into the squad.
Two other uncapped players - 22-year-old loose forwards Luke Whitelock and Brad Shields - were also whistled up due to the groin injury likely to rule out lock Luke Romano and the hamstring strain sidelining first-choice blindside flanker Liam Messam.
The quartet have each been part of the All Blacks' wider training camps this year.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster accepts the playmaking issues have potential to be disruptive with Crusaders second five-eighth Taylor a rookie at this level and Slade having been absent from Test football since 2011, since when he has battled various injuries and endured a mixed Super Rugby 2013 season with the Highlanders. "It's a big change but we really feel that those guys are coming in because they've earned the right to be here," Foster said. "If we do have new drivers come in, it's a bit more opportunity for those around them to show more leadership."
The situation has the potential to mirror the latter stages of the 2011 World Cup, when All Blacks No.10s fell like dominoes. Carter, Slade and Cruden all went down with injuries, resulting in much-maligned Stephen Donald famously earning a call up for the final, in which he came off the bench and kicked a crucial penalty in New Zealand's 8-7 win over France.
Foster smiled when asked if Donald was next on his list this week. "We're happy with what we've got," he said. "We've been here before and while it's disappointing for the guys who've got niggles, it's a great opportunity for the other two."