Discarded All Blacks playmaker Josh Ioane could be in line to return to the national side after an injury to Richie Mo’unga during New Zealand’s 36-0 thrashing of the Wallabies at Eden Park on Saturday.
Mo’unga was pulled from the field in the second half with a shoulder injury after falling heavily in a gang tackle.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen said he has been cleared of any serious injury that could rule him out of next month’s World Cup, but the injury could lead to Ioane earning a re-call back into the camp ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup warm-up test against Tonga in Hamilton on September 7.
“Richie’s shoulder looks like an AC joint issue,” Hansen told reporters in Auckland.
“Whilst it’s not long term, he’ll be sore for a couple of weeks. Hopefully no more.”
Ioane was named in the All Blacks’ 39-man squad for the Rugby Championship last month, and was named on the bench in their season-opener against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
However, the 24-year-old didn’t make it onto the field during his side’s 20-16 win, and was then one of five players culled as 34 players were named for the Bledisloe Cup series.
He did remain with the squad, though, in a training capacity in the lead-up to Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup decider, which Mo’unga played a pivotal role in by contributing a try, three conversions and a penalty for a personal points tally of 14.
The All Blacks are thinly-stocked at first-five, with two-time World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett the only other available option in the position.
Both he and Mo’unga are expected to make Hansen’s final 31-man team for the World Cup, which will be announced on August 28.
He will be joined by All Blacks hooker Liam Coltman, with the pair among nine players who have been made available to play provincial rugby this weekend.
The other seven players are Rieko Ioane (Auckland), Vaea Fifita (Wellington), Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), Brad Weber (Hawke’s Bay), Atu Moli (Tasman), Jackson Hemopo (Manawatu) and Luke Jacobson (Waikato).
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