Injury forces last-minute change to All Blacks ahead of Pumas battle
The All Blacks have been forced to make a late change to their line-up ahead of tonight’s clash with the Pumas.
Experienced midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown has picked up an upper hamstring strain during training and will sit out the match. In his place, utility back Rieko Ioane has been promoted from the bench to start in the No 13 jersey.
Ioane’s place on the bench has been filled by young Chiefs midfielder Quinn Tupaea, who made his debut for the All Blacks in their opening game of the year against Tonga but has not taken the field in the black jersey since.
The hamstring strain isn’t Lienert-Brown’s first injury of the year, with the 26-year-old missing the opening two tests of the season after having surgery on his elbow following his Super Rugby campaign with the Chiefs.
He was also absent from the second Bledisloe Cup test due to a knee injury.
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Ioane has had ample opportunity in the centre position due to Lienert-Brown’s misfortune and looked confident running out alongside David Havili. Ioane has also returned to top form on the wing this season, chalking up plenty of metres and causing many a problem for opposition defenders.
Ioane was once a permanent fixture in the No 11 jersey but lost his position to George Bridge on the eve of the 2019 World Cup.
“In 2019 he had a calf injury that kept him out for the early part of the international season, and by the time he was coming right it was the end of the World Cup,” said All Blacks head coach Foster following last weekend’s match, where Ioane amassed 103 metres and three beaten defenders from the left wing. “He just wasn’t fast in 2019 – he’s fast now. He’s got his speed back, and got that little swagger that he’s pretty proud of.
“He’s at his best when he dances around, and he’s comfortable in the environment. He’s embracing more of a leadership role, and he’s embracing the dual task of wing and centre. He’s just getting frustrated it’s always the other wing scoring the tries.”
Ahead of the game, Foster had indicated that although Ioane was named to wear the No 11 jersey, he was still likely to make a return to the midfield in the near future.
“He’s confident – I like his growth at both centre and wing,” Foster said. “I guess we’ve always seen him as a wing that wants to play centre and that’s starting to even out a little bit, because of his growth at centre.
“We’re delighted with that. I’ve got no doubt that he will go back into centre at some point, but right now, his confidence is high, he’s running fast, and I’m just enjoying work rate and his contributions off the park. He’s in a good spot.”
Tonight’s match kicks off at 5:05pm AEST from the Gold Coast, ahead of the Wallabies’ clash with the Springboks.
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