Smooth sailing has turned to turbulent waters for the good ship All Blacks ahead of their World Cup opener, with a major injury cloud hanging over midfield muscle man Jordie Barrett for the clash against the tournament hosts.
Assistant coach (defence) Scott McLeod delivered just the news All Blacks fans did not want to hear in Lyon late Monday (NZT) when he confirmed Barrett could now miss the highly anticipated clash between these two long-time World Cup heavyweights (Saturday morning NZT) because of a knee “niggle” that prevented him training at the start of the week.
The All Blacks are already set to be without a trio of first-choice selections in lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Shannon Frizell and prop Tyrel Lomax for the hugely anticipated clash against France, and Barrett’s potential defection would be a serious blow as the New Zealanders look to bounce back from the record defeat to South Africa in their final warmup match at Twickenham.
Barrett will be given every chance to shake off the problem, which Mcleod could not put down to any particular incident in training or even the 35-7 Boks bashing in London, but the conservative assistant coach’s language made it clear the New Zealanders were certainly preparing for the worst.
Barrett and Rieko Ioane have been the preferred midfield starting combination since head coach Ian Foster moved Barrett to No 12 (from fullback) following last year’s Bledisloe thriller in Melbourne when David Havili and Quinn Tupaea both went down with injury.
Since then, they started four of the five remaining tests of 2src22 as part of a super-sized midfield, and then four of the five outings in 2src23, with the second Bledis
…. to be continued
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