Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

All Blacks: Business as usual despite injuries

Steve Hansen says the All Blacks machine will rumble along just fine as they build towards Saturday night's Bledisloe Cup test against Australia in Wellington despite being down to their fourth-string first-five.

The All Blacks coach was delivered some frustrating news this morning when it was revealed that Aaron Cruden (knee) and Beauden Barrett (calf) have been ruled out of this weekend's Rugby Championship encounter.

Cruden will spend two to six weeks on the sidelines with a posterior cruciate ligament strain, while Barrett may be fit in time to face Argentina on September 7 as his calf issue is only minor.

The pair's injuries, suffered in last Saturday night's 47-29 win over Australia in Sydney, come on the back of Dan Carter's calf problem, which has left him on the injured list for at least another fortnight.

Tom Taylor and Colin Slade have joined the All Blacks in Wellington as first-five cover.

Hansen said not a lot had changed within their camp and the side trained this morning as per normal.

"We did exactly the same training run as we did last week on Tuesday,'' Hansen said. "We did exactly the same drills and skills because that's the skillset we are working on at the moment. So we might have introduced a couple of new plays and a couple of new lineout options but it's just the same. We've got to get on the horse and go as hard as we can.''

Slade has 10 test appearances to his name, while Taylor has been involved in All Blacks camps in the past without being called upon to debut.

"They've fitted in lovely,'' Hansen said. "It was pretty seamless. They've got a lot to take in but Tuesdays for us are always about clarity, anyway. So it's not a high intensity run. It's more practicing the things that we want to put in place so we can have a really high intensity training run on Thursday afternoon.''

The first-five situation is reminiscent of the 2011 World Cup when Stephen Donald, nicknamed 'Beaver', was rustled up from whitebaiting to play in the tournament's final, where he kicked the match-winning penalty as the country's fourth-choice pivot.

Carter, who was also ruled out in 2011, saw the funny side of the injury situation today when he tweeted: ``Does anyone know where Beaver is at the moment.''

In more injury news, lock Luke Romano was ruled out of the Rugby Championship today after he tore the right adductor tendon in his groin during Saturday's win over Australia.

Romano's absence points to a likely second-row combination of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick for this weekend with Jeremy Thrush on the bench at his home ground.

Blindside flanker Steven Luatua also has the ability to cover lock but Hansen said Romano's withdrawal was a big blow.

"He's one of the senior players. He's played a lot of the test matches we've played [recently] and he made a very good combination with either Brodie or Sam. He's a big ball-carrier, big-hitter, so he'll be a loss.''

Meanwhile, centre Conrad Smith was limited in his participation at training this morning but Hansen said there were no major concerns around the 70-test veteran.

"Conrad's got a sore ankle but all indications are he'll be fine [by] Thursday so we just didn't want to run him too much today,'' Hansen said.

The All Blacks have tomorrow off and will name their team on Thursday for Saturday's test.

As for whether Slade had the inside running to claim the No 10 jersey given his previous experience at test level, Hansen offered: "Well you'll have to wait till Thursday for that ... Maybe, maybe.''


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