Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Crockett gets his big chance

Wyatt Crockett hasn't had too many chances to cement his place in the All Blacks front row, but he has a prime opportunity against Australia on Saturday following Tony Woodcock's injury.

Crockett's last test was 12 months ago and also against the Wallabies at Eden Park, a comfortable 30-14 victory for the All Blacks.

Woodcock's consistency and durability has been a feature during his test career and that has limited Crockett's game time. The Blues prop has played 86 tests and rarely gets injured but his rib cartilage problem suffered in the Bledisloe Cup win in Sydney has opened the door for Crockett, who has been up against Woodcock, John Afoa (now playing in Ireland) and the adaptable Ben Franks for a place in the front row.

In all, Crockett, 29, has played six tests after making his debut against Italy in Christchurch in 2009. However, the same opposition proved problematic for him in Milan later that year when the loosehead prop was targeted by referee Stuart Dickinson and penalised out of the game. Dickinson was later admonished for his performance by referees' boss Paddy O'Brien but Crockett didn't play a test again until July 2011 - against Fiji in Dunedin - before appearing against the Springboks and the Wallabies in that year's Tri Nations.

Crusaders teammate Luke Romano said today Crockett would be an able replacement for Woodcock.

"What he [Woodcock] brings with his experience and scrummaging nous - yes he's going to be sorely missed but the man who's replacing him has been playing some good footy over the past couple of years and I'm sure Crocky will really step up for the game."

Romano added: "He's shown what he can do in Super Rugby, he's a great ball-carrying prop, and he scrummages really well so he'll just be looking to do the simple things well."

Number one on the list will be ensuring he keeps his left arm up and bound against an Australian front row known for its trickery more than its strength and scrummaging technique. However, the Wallabies' scrum performed well against the All Blacks at ANZ Stadium on Saturday, although they did leak two tries straight from the set piece.

Hooker Keven Mealamu said he was impressed with the effort that front rowers Benn Robinson, Tatau Palota Nau and Sekope Kepu put in.

At Eden Park, more smoke and mirrors are likely to come in the form of Quade Cooper, with All Blacks back-up first-five Aaron Cruden expecting the Wallabies to include the controversial playmaker as they seek to draw level in the Bledisloe Cup series.

"There's been a little bit of talk that they want to try a few new things and with Quade coming back into the side if he does so, it will bring a lot more flair to their side ... we're expecting him to definitely be in the 22," Cruden said.

He added that the All Blacks had plenty to improve on following their 27-19 win.

"The whole group was a little bit disappointed in the way that we went about it and just the individual skill level can be a lot higher. That's what the guys are working on right now. Hopefully we can sharpen that up so we hit the ground running on Saturday night."

- APNZ

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