Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Carter's recovery puts Saili in frame for test debut

Blues player Francis Saili may be making his debut for the All Blacks this weekend. Photo /  Richard Robinson
Blues player Francis Saili may be making his debut for the All Blacks this weekend. Photo / Richard Robinson

Dan Carter's recovery from a calf injury has put Blues second-five Francis Saili in the frame to make his debut for the All Blacks on Saturday night.

Saili is likely to take his place between Carter and Conrad Smith against Argentina at Waikato Stadium on Saturday night, however, he is unlikely to have got the nod if veteran playmaker Carter hadn't pulled through.

Carter, who has had an injury-disrupted test season this year, missing two of the three France tests and the first two Rugby Championship encounters, ran freely in training today, and combined with Saili and Smith at the end.

Beauden Barrett also ran freely after being troubled by a calf problem recently.

Coach Steve Hansen gave a broad hint this morning that Saili was right in the frame - a selection which would allow Ma'a Nonu to freshen up ahead of the Springboks test at Eden Park next Saturday.

"There is an opportunity to give Francis his first game and see how he goes and let Ma'a's ankle recover, but we'll make that final decision after training as well,'' Hansen told Radio Sport.

Saili, 22, who has been in good form for North Harbour in the ITM Cup, is the only one of the new additions to the squad yet to make his test debut. He wasn't required for the three tests against France in June or the two Bledisloe Cup tests against Australia.

Blues teammates Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua both made their debuts in the final test against France in New Plymouth, with Luatua in particular taking his chance. He has started the last two tests - comprehensive victories over the Wallabies in Sydney and Wellington - at blindside flanker due to Liam Messam's hamstring injury.

Piutau's appearances have been limited to two substitution roles.

Luatua will start at No 6 against the Pumas in Hamilton as Messam's injury continues to trouble him.

- APNZ

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