Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

All Blacks: Aaron Cruden cleared after neck 'crack'

Aaron Cruden leaves the field suffering a neck injury. Photo / Getty
Aaron Cruden leaves the field suffering a neck injury. Photo / Getty

All Blacks first-five Aaron Cruden was cleared of serious injury after hearing his neck "crack" in a tackle during tonight's test in Wellington.

Cruden was taken to hospital for scans after leaving the field on a buggy while wearing a neck brace at the end of the first half. Play was held up for about 10 minutes and his team-mates, including Israel Dagg and Aaron Smith, were clearly concerned.

However, coach Steve Hansen gave an encouraging report afterwards, a reassuring diagnosis for a player who has had more than his fair share of serious injuries over recent years.

"Doc has been in touch and it sounds like he will be OK," Hansen said. "They're doing a few precautionary things at the moment but it sounds like he's pretty good.

"When he got tackled by [Wales lock] Luke Charteris - by accident, there was nothing deliberate - he ended up catching him and bending his neck over with his body weight over the top.

There was a bit of a crack but, by all accounts, there is nothing that is damaged from a broken point of view. He's got the all-clear at this stage."

The next few days will be crucial in Cruden's recovery, and it wouldn't surprise if Hansen gives him a rest in Dunedin next Saturday. Beauden Barrett's compelling form when he replaced Cruden in the 33rd minute would suggest he deserves a run under the roof as well.

Malakai Fekitoa, off for treatment for a head cut and a sore left leg in the first minute after a collision with second-five Jamie Roberts, is probably the next-most-serious injury concern as the All Blacks eye a clean sweep in the series. Like Barrett, Seta Tamanivalu proved an able replacement off the bench once he replaced Fekitoa for good after halftime.

Hansen said halfback Aaron Smith had a "bit of a dead leg" but could have remained on the field if necessary.

"There's nothing else that's jumping out and hitting us in the face. They will be sore because it was a physical test match but we'll see how they pull up in the morning."

Fullback Israel Dagg, who made a compelling return to the team in his 50th test, said of his try inside wing Ben Smith: "I said, 'sorry, I was never going to pass that'. The boys did the hard work, I just had to fall over the line ... I was happy to play alongside this legend [Smith], playing 50 games, it was pretty special.

"At the start of it I was pretty tired, pretty knackered. I haven't played footy for a couple of weeks so I'm feeling it.

"We just had to keep talking, even if it was rubbish."

Ben Smith said the All Blacks turned up the tempo after Barrett came on.

"He was similar to last week. He makes a big difference when he comes on. He adds energy and you get excited when you see the ball in his hands."

- NZ Herald

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