All Blacks look to Malakai Fekitoa in lieu of Nonu

Malakai Fekitoa seems set to start for the All Blacks at second five-eighth in Argentina next week with Ryan Crotty still working his way back to fitness after a facial fracture.

Crotty was expected to recover for the test against the Pumas in La Plata next week, but would instead make his return in the NPC with Canterbury and join the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship finale against the Springboks at Ellis Park on October 4.

With Ma’a Nonu out for the rest of the year after fracturing his forearm, Fekitoa would be the All Blacks’ only second-five in Argentina. Experienced centre Conrad Smith was the other specialist midfielder.

The All Blacks would, however, back Ben Smith to cover both midfield roles. He again showed his impressive versatility when filling in for Nonu in the second half against the Springboks in Wellington last week. Charles Piutau was another possible option as cover in the midfield.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen made it clear today only under the most extreme circumstances would he consider starting Smith in the No 12 jersey.

Fekitoa, the Auckland and Highlanders midfielder, had minimal experience at second-five, starting two of his four tests at centre against England and Australia this year.

Locks Dominic Bird and Patrick Tuipolutu, who played the final three minutes of the tense 14-10 win over the Boks, and Daniel Carter, have also been left behind to make graduated returns with their respective NPC teams.

That left Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock – who was making a timely return from a rib injury – and Jeremy Thrush as the specialist locks, with Steven Luatua also capable of providing cover.

Hooker Dane Coles would return home after test against the Pumas for the birth of his child. Keven Mealamu and Nathan Harris would cover his absence.

Jerome Kaino (shoulder) and Liam Messam (thigh) also returned from injury.

ALL BLACKS SQUAD

Dane Coles, Nathan Harris, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Joe Moody, Wyatt Crockett, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Jeremy Thrush, Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Steven Luatua, Aaron Smith, TJ Perenara, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett, Colin Slade, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Israel Dagg, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea, Charles Piutau (Ryan Crotty to join squad in South Africa)

suff .co.nz

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About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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