All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod provides update on injured trio, who could fill in at centre
The All Blacks entered camp ahead of their upcoming tests knowing that some of their squad wouldn’t be available for their opening match against Tonga on July 3. They’ve now added an extra player to the unavailable list, with Braydon Ennor undergoing surgery for appendicitis.
Frizell and Savea, on the other hand, could potentially suit up in black next Saturday – but the All Blacks aren’t rushing to make any decisions this week.
“We’re taking the advice daily of our medical staff and just seeing their progressions,” All Blacks defence coach Scott McLeod said at training on Friday.
“I’m not sure in terms of when [Frizell] will be available. Again, it just depends on how he can go every day. [He has a] high ankle sprain. He went over that in the Highlanders game and got a knock to the head but there’s been nothing around his head injury, it’s just his ankle.
“Ardie, just his knee, getting full confidence and strength back in his knee.”
Ennor, on the other hand, was fine going into camp but was suffering from some stomach issues as the days progressed.
His Crusaders teammate David Havili has had his own fair share of problems over the past two years but is particularly gutted that Ennor won’t feature in the coming matches.
“Pretty frustrating for him. He’s just come off a knee injury as well,” Havili said. “He’s all good now. He’s got the surgery done. From what I’ve heard, he’s walking around and straight into recovery mode now. Bit unlucky for him.
“I’ve seen him the last couple of days and he did say he was having a sore stomach and there’s actually been a few [with appendicitis] down in the Crusaders. Me and Bridgey [George Bridge] pointed out that he might have to go and see Doc so definitely unfortunate for him. He’s done so well to get back where he needs to be and to have that happen is really unfortunate.”
There are some who still remember Ma'a Nonu as merely a simple wrecking ball. If that were truly the case, the #AllBlacks wouldn't still be struggling to fill the void left by the midfield centurion following the 2015 World Cup. @maavelous
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— The XV Rugby (@TheXV) June 24, 2021
With Lienert-Brown’s return date uncertain, the All Blacks have surprisingly not yet opted to bring an extra midfielder into the squad.
“Not sure when Alby will be available, depends on his progress,” McLeod said. “But in terms of bringing somebody in, I think it’s just within the squad at the moment. There’s been no indication of anyone coming in so we’ll just work within the team and see how we go. There’s a number of options that can be played in the midfield so will go from there.”
One such option is outside back Jordie Barrett, who spent much of his early career wearing the No 12 jersey before he transitioned into a fullback with the Hurricanes.
“He played a lot of his junior rugby [in the midfield], under 20s,” said McLeod. “He’s talked about being an option there as well so if we get thin, I guess that’s something we could look at.”
Barrett, however, has rarely featured at outside centre – where Ennor would have been most likely to line up had he made the starting side. Rieko Ioane is the only fit player in the squad who has regularly worn the No 13 jersey this season and looms as the most likely candidate to don that same jersey against Tonga next weekend.
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