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Mixed news on All Blacks injury front

By Tom Vinicombe
Brodie Retallick and Angus Ta'avao. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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While another ‘dud’ All Blacks test won’t necessarily be winning over many fans, this weekend’s game against Italy has come at the perfect time to give some senior players the opportunity to refresh ahead of the final two matches of the year.

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Coach Ian Foster has named an entirely rotated starting XV for this weekend’s clash with an Azzurri side who have never tasted victory against the visiting All Blacks.

Gone are the likes of senior heads Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Brodie Retallick, Ardie Savea, Beauden Barrett, Rieko Ioane and Anton Lienert-Brown, with the more junior members of the squad coming in to take their place.

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Who was the All Blacks’ best performer in the win over Wales?
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Who was the All Blacks’ best performer in the win over Wales?

With 12 tests under their belt already this year, the final stretch was always going to be a tough ask for the players with heavy workloads, especially given the bulk haven’t been home since the beginning of September. As such, it’s no surprise that Foster and co have given the majority of the players that will feature against Ireland and France in mid-November the weekend off.

Had the All Blacks been playing England or Scotland on Saturday, that may not have been the case – but there’s at least one senior player that wouldn’t be able to take the field regardless.

Lock Brodie Retallick was the only injury concern to emerge from last week’s comfortable win over Wales after taking a knock to his shoulder and leaving the park in the 60th minute.

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Retallick spent a lengthy stint on the sidelines in 2019 after dislocating his shoulder against the Springboks and while Ian Foster was able to quickly alleviate any fears that a repeat injury had occurred after the match, the 30-year-old still wasn’t considered for the game against Italy, despite making good progress during the week.

“[He’s a] really strong [chance] for next week,” Foster said after naming his side to take on Italy.

“He’s recovered a lot quicker than we thought, and so he got through a really decent lineout session and a bit of push-and-jump going on in there that he got involved in, and you can’t keep him out of that sort of stuff, and he seemed to come through that pretty good. I would say the signs are pretty positive for next week.”

The chances of Angus Ta’avao featuring are much slimmer, unfortunately, with the prop dislocating his elbow in training ahead of the match with Wales.

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“He’s out. Definitely out this week, definitely out next week, but there is a possibility of him being available for the last week,” Foster said.

“It’s more than a one-week injury for him, but, to be fair, he’s actually recovering a little bit quicker than what we thought, so that’s good news.”

While Retallick has been a regular starter for the All Blacks this season, accumulating eight throughout the campaign, Ta’avao has had fewer chances to impress. Injuries robbed the prop of making the squad at all last year and the 31-year-old has again been plagued by niggles throughout 2021, notching two starts and four further appearances off the bench for New Zealand.

With so much competition in the front row, Ta’avao will be relying on having a good campaign with the Chiefs next year to convince the selectors he’s still worthy of a spot in the squad.

The rest of the squad, however, remains injury-free – which is hugely fortunate, given the torrid season the All Blacks have endured to date.

With just three matches remaining to round out the year, Foster will be hopeful the side can maintain a relatively clean bill of health heading into the final stretch.

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