Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: All Blacks set to call in hooking replacements

Having lost Nathan Harris for the season before the test and Codie Taylor a concern for this week due to a head knock, the All Blacks are likely to call in two hookers when they arrive in Wellington.

The coaching team were trawling through various video clips and statistics and checking the physical state of a raft of potential candidates with a view to bringing the new men in on Monday.

Dane Coles, Harris and Taylor have stood out all season as the country's three best hookers and it's not apparent whom the selectors would view as the next cabs off the rank.

Hika Elliot has the most test experience, while Highlanders hooker Liam Coltman has been in and around the All Blacks in previous years when they were working an apprenticeship scheme.

Given the probability that whoever comes into the squad this week at hooker is possibly going to be on the bench, Elliot and Coltman presumably have the inside running given their past association with the team.

The other options would be Blues captain James Parsons, who won a solitary cap in 2014, Ben Funnell of the Crusaders and Hurricanes young buck Ricky Riccitelli a possible wild card if there is any appetite to think about the future.

"We have got a bit of work to do just looking at a couple of tapes from games over the weekend," said All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. "There is a high chance we will be bringing two people in on Monday."

Typically the All Blacks have a good idea of their positional pecking order, but circumstances have changed suddenly and dramatically in the last 72 hours.

The All Blacks came to Sydney with Harris and Taylor in prime health and Coles nursing a rib injury that originally meant he wasn't even considered for selection.

They left with Harris out for the season with a damaged knee, Taylor, uncertain to be fit for this week after incurring a head knock and Coles almost miraculously back to 100 per cent having had to play 78 minutes at ANZ Stadium.

It was an astonishingly brave and resilient performance from Coles who required several pain killing injections in his ribs before kick-off.

"It was no mean feat," said lock Brodie Retallick who himself suffered rib damage earlier this year. "I was with him before the game when he was getting strapped up and the doc was injecting his ribs to try to take the pain away and he had a few words to say about that.

"To play 80 minutes the way he did was awesome."

Ideally, the All Blacks probably would have looked to have kept him Coles the bench for as long as they felt Taylor was holding up.

The ideal scenario never even came close to fruition, though, as Taylor came off after just two minutes.

The moment carried an element of poignancy as the day before, in announcing that Harris was out and Coles was coming onto the bench, Hansen was asked how many minutes the Hurricanes captain had in him.

The All Blacks coach was unequivocal, stating that Coles had 80 and would be ready to come on in the first minute if he had to.

It would have been a nervous time for both men seeing if he was right, but Coles didn't give any hint with the quality of his performance that he was being affected by the pain.

He was part of a strong scrummaging effort and powered through his usual work in the loose.

The coaches are hopeful that Coles will come through the next few days in reasonable shape and be ready to play again in Wellington.

The news on Waisake Naholo wasn't so good, though. He's torn his hamstring and won't be available and may have to spend a few weeks yet on the sidelines.

- NZ Herald

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