All Blacks are likely to end their season against France this weekend without the services of star player Beauden Barrett.
Debate to the media on Wednesday [NZT], All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree has revealed that Barrett is unsure of this weekend’s final – and season-dominant – match against Les Bleus at the Stade de France in Paris on Sunday. [NZT].
The 30-year-old left the field early last weekend in a 29-20 defeat at the hands of Ireland in Dublin and never returned after failing in a head injury assessment.
Since then, he hasn’t practiced at full capacity this week as he continues to work through concussion protocols, making Richie Mo’unga a pioneer who leaves the No. 10 shirt in four days.
“At this point, he hasn’t fully practiced,” Plumtree told reporters in the French capital.
“A little scared today, so I haven’t completed all of my protocols yet. He is uncertain, I would say, especially when Wednesday is tomorrow and Thursday is our last day of preparation.
The news is a major blow to All Blacks, especially given that Anton Lienert-Brown, who started fifth at Aviva Stadium, is also unreachable when he partially placed his shoulder against the Irishman.
Lienert-Brown was replaced by David Havili in this match, but the stalled form of the latter has raised questions about who All Blacks boss Ian Foster will choose in his 12-shirt this weekend.
In the face of a busy defense, Havili has struggled to force himself and make his way across the front line, as has been evident in Springbox, Wales and Ireland this year.
Foster has thus grown in demands to push into the fight with a strong young man, Quinn Tupaea, because of his size and direct ball-bearing ability, but it remains to be seen whether the head coach believes the inexperience of the six-team national team from Havil.
Despite being outside Mo’unga – probably backed by Damian McKenzie on the swap bench – in the 12-shirt, All Blacks is set to make a new five-eighth pair against the French.
However, Mo’unga may be able to renew his gaming partnership with Aaron Smith after 101 test veterans arrived in Europe last week.
“For New Zealand, knowing the problem is not the same thing as stopping it.” ????
Gregor Paul ??
? https://t.co/Vz2YPM6dzw pic.twitter.com/e9s45NlNCA
– XV Rugby (@TheXV) November 16, 2021
Smith hasn’t played in the All Blacks since their second Bledisloe Cup win at the Wallabies in August was out of most of the rugby championship and year-end tour due to the arrival of their second child.
The 32-year-old answered an All Blacks emergency call after their ugly 47-9 victory over Italy in Rome two weeks ago, but after comrades Brad Weber and Finlay Christie were injured during the match.
Smith was considered absent from the Irish test because he didn’t arrive in Dublin until three days after that match, but after a week in the All Blacks line-up, Plumtree said he was eligible this weekend.
– Of course it would be nice to have a couple of games [before coming into camp], ”Plumtree said.
“She has family responsibilities related to having a new baby boy, which prevented it, but she’s been here for eight or ten days now, trained really well, so it’s definitely nice to have her here with her experience.
“He’s in a dispute, and we need to consider it.”
Ireland uplifted the spirit of the nation at the swinging Aviva Stadium in Dublin, but players are left with no enthusiasm, do they know that meaningful progress at the 2023 World Cup is a priority?
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– XV Rugby (@TheXV) November 16, 2021
That means All Blacks now have four defenders in the race against France as Weber has shaken his concussion and a broken nose, while Christie was named to the Irish game bench despite getting a neck injury earlier this week.
Maybe that’s why he didn’t get on the field last weekend despite TJ Perenara’s ineffective performance in a rare starting role, but Plumtree said the door is open to all Half of All Blacks this weekend.
“All 9s are really available, so we have a choice there. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, and they all offer something different for our game.
“Aaron has played over 100 tests, so he’s a very experienced campaigner. We know TJ still has 60 or 70 test matches at that point, so we have two really experienced campaigners available.
“Brad Weber played really well on this tour and Finlay Christie’s is coming and coming, so we have some really great choices to make there, and the choice is based on how we want to play and how others play.”
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