A pair of injured All Blacks could reportedly be back in action sooner than expected in what would be a significant boost to New Zealand’s Rugby Championship preparations.
According to a report out of the New Zealand Herald, injured duo Scott Barrett and Ngani Laumape are making “promising” and “encouraging” recoveries from long-term injuries that have kept them sidelined for months.
Crusaders lock Barrett was ruled out of his side’s title-winning Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign in June with a toe injury that required surgery.
As such, he also missed the North vs South clash and wasn’t included in Ian Foster’s 35-man All Blacks squad named earlier this month, leaving New Zealand’s second row stocks bare of much experience.
Patrick Tuipulotu and Sam Whitelock share 147 tests matches between them, but will accompanied by uncapped prospects Quinten Strange and Tupou Vaa’i, who have both benefitted from the absences of incumbents Barrett and Brodie Retallick (sabbatical).
However, the Herald reports that that quintet of players are due to be joined by Barrett following the first round of the Rugby Championship as part of an 11 additional players that will travel with Foster’s initial 35-man squad to Australia.
Barrett’s inclusion would inject a further 36 tests worth of experience into the playing group and would act as another mentor to Strange and Vaa’i, both of whom will likely play a bench role in the upcoming Bledisloe Cup tests in Wellington and Auckland.
Joining Barrett in making a speedy recovery is Hurricanes midfielder Laumape, who sustained an untimely broken forearm during the Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign after finding himself in a hot run of form.
Regarded by much of the New Zealand public as one of the form midfielders in the competition prior to his injury, the 27-year-old hasn’t been seen since picking up that injury during the Hurricanes’ shock 34-32 win over the Crusaders in July.
Similarly to Barrett, though, the Herald states that he is expected to be named in the All Blacks’ enlarged Rugby Championship squad, joining fellow midfielders Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane.
Crusaders utility back Braydon Ennor was also included in that contingent, but the one-cap star picked up a season-ending ACL injury while playing for the South Island earlier this month, meaning there is already a vacant spot for Laumape to fill.
Uncapped Wellington midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen has also been tipped to make the national squad as part of the additional 11 players following a string of standout performances for the Hurricanes over the past few months.
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