New Zealand v Australia, Bledisloe Cup
All Blacks lose Richie McCaw and Cory Jane
October 17, 2013
Richie McCaw pulled up with a sore calf after training on Thursday © Getty Images
New Zealand have been dealt a double injury blow on the eve of the third Bledisloe Cup Test at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, with Richie McCaw and Cory Jane ruled out by respective calf and hamstring issues.
Sam Cane replaces McCaw, with Steven Luatua moving onto the replacements bench, while Keiran Read takes over the captaincy having already led the team in five of their nine Tests this year. Charles Piutau replaces Jane on the right wing, making his first Test start after not being named on the bench initially.
McCaw had been due to play his 32 Test against the Wallabies, a record for a player against one opponent, while Jane, 30, had been called into the team to play his 44th Test after an eight-month recuperation from a knee reconstruction.
Wallabies captain James Horwill said of his All Blacks counterpart's absence: "Obviously, anyone that's played 120 Tests is a pretty big hole to fill. But I think Sam Cane is an excellent player who has been playing very well and I don't think they'll lose too much."
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen and Read were equally adamant that Cane and Piutau, both 21, would fill the voids seamlessly, their confidence based on the team's ability to overcome without negative impact a series of 11th-hour injuries this season. Most notably, Dan Carter - whose influence is as profound as McCaw's - has twice been forced out midway through the buildup to Tests but his stand-ins have stepped up.
"We've got to the stage now where it's just business as usual," Hansen said. "The expectation is that everyone prepares to play anyway and people come in and they're confident. We've done a lot of miles without Richie now. While it's great to have him there, it's also a great opportunity for Sam, and for Kieran to lead."
McCaw, 32, has been troubled by injury since returning from his six-month break from rugby, playing just four Tests after making two reserve bench appearances for the Crusaders in Super Rugby. A knee injury ruled him out of Tests against South Africa in Auckland and Argentina in La Plata. But Hansen said that his withdrawal this time was purely precautionary ahead of the season-ending tour, for which McCaw would be fully fit to lead the squad.
Jane's absence has the potential to be disruptive to an All Blacks backline already missing injured first five-eighth Dan Carter and centre Conrad Smith, who has begun a four-month break from rugby.
Piutau played every minute of the Blues' 16 Super Rugby games this year at fullback, but he has looked sharp off the bench in six Tests after making his debut against France in New Plymouth.
Hansen said of Jane: "He's obviously really disappointed. That's understandable but one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. Charles has played well enough to earn a start and he's good enough to start."
All Blacks: Israel Dagg; Charles Piutau, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea; Aaron Cruden, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (captain), Sam Cane, Liam Messam; Sam Whitelock, Jeremy Thrush; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock. Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Steven Luatua, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Tom Taylor.
Follow live text commentary of the Bledisloe Cup Test between New Zealand and Australia on Saturday, October 19 from 7pm (NZDT), 5pm (AEDT) and 6am (GMT)
Cory Jane had been in line to play Test rugby for the first time since his knee injury © Getty Images
Do we actually want a third Bledisloe Cup Test, and if so should it be staged earlier in the year?
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