Can All Blacks win despite injury crisis?

Gregor Paul looks over the All Blacks injury crisis which sees Tom Taylor and Colin Slade as the two options to start against the Wallabies in Wellington this weekend.

Can the All Blacks win with what will effectively be their fourth and fifth-choice first-fives?
Of course they can - they won a World Cup with their third and fourth-choice first fives. It's not ideal by any means but that's the beauty of having experienced players throughout the team. Watch Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith take control of the decision-making and Richie McCaw and Kieran Read bark the orders and lead by example.

Is Aaron Cruden a red-flag athlete already?
Possibly - but arguably all first-fives are regardless of age, longevity or physicality. Jonny Wilkinson missed nearly three years of rugby in his mid 20s. At 85kg, Cruden is always going to be vulnerable to injury - he runs hard at the traffic, is brave and sadly his style and size are a bad combination when it comes to potential injuries.

How big a blow is Luke Romano's injury, aren't we covered at lock?
It's actually a bit deceptive at lock. Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are quality operators - big men, in form and comfortable at this level. But modern rugby requires for test teams to have a third option and without Romano or Dominic Bird - who hasn't been tested yet anyway - the All Blacks suddenly look a touch light in the boilerhouse. Jeremy Thrush is a long way behind the established three and after that...well there really isn't anyone.

So who do you start with - Colin Slade or Tom Taylor?
Taylor would be the best option despite being uncapped and Slade having 10 test appearances. Taylor's goal-kicking is immaculate. His temperament in what we have seen of him so far is excellent and he's a tidy, composed and versatile footballer. The occasion won't overawe him and his form was consistent throughout Super Rugby.

- NZ Herald

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