Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Nonu and Franks could be ruled out

Hansen after consistency with changes down to injury

Ma'a Nonu may sit out next weekend's test against the Pumas with an ankle injury. Photo / Richard Robinson
Ma'a Nonu may sit out next weekend's test against the Pumas with an ankle injury. Photo / Richard Robinson

Ma'a Nonu and Owen Franks may be spelled against the Pumas but the All Black selectors are not planning many changes for the resumption of the Rugby Championship next Saturday.

Colin Slade, Ryan Crotty and Ben Afeaki have been called into the squad to cover players who have injury niggles.

That group includes five-eighths Daniel Carter and Beauden Barrett and flanker Liam Messam, who will get a strenuous assessment tomorrow once the group has assembled in Hamilton.

Nonu's ankle is still giving him some trouble while Franks was concerned about a groin strain he suffered in the Bledisloe Cup triumph against the Wallabies.

"With some rest Ma'a will come right and we have to be mindful of that," coach Steve Hansen said.

"He might need a rest and that would freshen him before the Springboks the next week."

Settling on a midfield replacement for Nonu offers several thoughts after Crotty came out of the cold, on to the bench then ANZ Stadium in Sydney for a test substitute debut.

He played strongly and with his usual work alongside Carter at the Crusaders, the selectors may decide to persevere with that partnership.

Originally Francis Saili was the squad back-up for Nonu but he damaged his ankle in a hitout match in Wellington and Crotty got the call and the test cap.

Saili recovered and played strongly for North Harbour in this week's ITM Cup action against Wellington. He offers an exciting shift in style with his nifty footwork and ambitious offloads.

Whether that translates well to the international stage and whether he is still rated ahead of Crotty will unfold next week.

If Franks is not fit enough to start at tighthead, Blues prop Charlie Faumuina should make his ninth test appearance against the Pumas.

Training squad members Saili, TJ Perenara, Jeremy Thrush, Slade, Crotty, Luke Whitelock and Frank Halai played for their provinces this week while Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau and Sam Cane play today and Ben Franks tomorrow.

History, said Hansen, showed that most players were a bit rusty when they had time off but there were always individual cases like Nonu to consider.

The All Blacks had to respect Argentina, maintain their Rugby Championship standards and be consistent with their selections.

"That's the broad idea but one or two players might be different," he said.

Hansen confessed he did not have a great deal of intelligence on Argentina.

The All Blacks had all the video on their work last year and in two tests with the Springboks this season.

"They are very combative, they are spoilers and they hoe into things," he said. "They made a much better job of their return game with the Springboks."

If Daniel Carter showed he was fully fit after his recent calf problems, he should start his 96th test in Hamilton while reports about Beauden Barrett and Liam Messam's fitness were encouraging.

Neither Aaron Cruden (knee) nor Tom Taylor (rib) would be fit for some weeks and there was some doubt whether Cruden would be fit for offshore duty against the Pumas and Springboks.

- NZ Herald

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