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All Blacks suffer injury blow ahead of clash against France

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images)

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The All Blacks will be tasked with bouncing back from their stunning defeat to Ireland over the weekend without the services of midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown.

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Lienert-Brown left the field with a partial dislocated shoulder injury in the first half of his side’s 29-20 defeat at Aviva Stadium in Dublin yesterday.

The 26-year-old travelled to Paris with the All Blacks on Monday [NZT] ahead of this weekend’s season-ending test against France, but All Blacks head coach Ian Foster confirmed Lienert-Brown will play no part in that match.

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“Anton has subluxed his shoulder so he’s in a sling, just as a precautionary, but he’ll be out of this week’s game,” Foster told reporters on Monday.

Lienert-Brown was joined in making an early exit from the match in the Irish capital by first-five Beauden Barrett, who never returned to action after failing a head injury assessment midway through the first half.

Foster said Barrett will continue to be monitored over the course of the next 48 hours as his fitness and availability is assessed for New Zealand’s final game of the year at the Stade de France.

Lienert-Brown’s season, though, has come to a premature end, and Foster will be forced to survey his options in search of a new No 12, who is likely to partner Rieko Ioane after his start at centre against Ireland.

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That leaves the All Blacks boss with inexperienced duo David Havili and Quinn Tupaea at his disposal.

Havili was the preferred second-five option in the early part of the season but has struggled to recapture his impressive form in the face of the rush defence he has come up against when playing the Springboks, Wales and Ireland.

Tupaea, meanwhile, would be presented with the biggest challenge of his young career if he is named to start against the French after having only played six times for the All Blacks since his test debut against Tonga in July.

The most significant international fixture he has been involved with to date was a cameo off the bench in his side’s win over the Springboks in Townsville, where he secured a breakdown penalty for Jordie Barrett to score the match-winning points from.

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A start against France, one of world rugby’s rising forces, would be a step up from that for Tupaea, but Foster may be swayed by his direct ball-carrying and effective offload game.

The other midfield option is Braydon Ennor, but the four-test international is viewed as more of a centre that can play wing rather than a genuine candidate to play at second-five.

Regardless of who he picks to fill the void in the No 12 jersey, Foster said he is pleased with the depth within his squad.

“I’m comfortable with the options,” Foster said. “We’ve been able to get through this tour really well from an injury perspective so it was disappointing to lose to players within that first half in the backs but that’s life, that’s test match rugby.

“Part of our job from a squad size is we’ve been able to build people and give opportunity so that when it’s their turn to step up they know a little bit about it.

“Whoever gets in that midfield this weekend they’ll be prepared and ready to go.”

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