Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Bismarck sinks Carter's record hopes

Beauden Barrett made a strong impression after replacing an injured Dan Carter against South Africa on Saturday night. Photo / Greg Bowker
Beauden Barrett made a strong impression after replacing an injured Dan Carter against South Africa on Saturday night. Photo / Greg Bowker

Daniel Carter's race to reach 100 All Black tests before his six-month break has faltered again because of an injury to his right shoulder.

Not so long ago, that stumble would have provoked national agitation. Now it offers a choice between a clutch of talented five-eighths understudies.

Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett and Tom Taylor will fly out to Argentina with the squad on Saturday with the senior pair duelling hard for a start in Mar del Plata.

"Beauden Barrett was simply fantastic [against the Boks], he looked like he's been there all his life so it's pleasing to see those young guys fit in," coach Steve Hansen said.

The 22-year-old hustled into action early when Carter was hurt in a thumping tackle from Bismarck du Plessis.

Barrett showed great all-round awareness including more bite in his defence and Hansen had encouraged him to shoot for some risk and reward plays with his punting.

"He knows that and I think it helps going about the next job," he said.

Barrett has played 11 tests with a solitary start against Italy last year but his impressive hour against the Springboks will leave his name on the selectors' table much longer in the team debates for Argentina.

Cruden has not added to his 23 caps for a month because of a knee problem although he has passed a full contact session and will travel while Carter will miss at least six weeks of rugby.

The experienced five-eighths bore no malice towards du Plessis and tweeted that he hurt his shoulder when he fell awkwardly.

There is a chance that All Black skipper Richie McCaw will travel if the medical staff think he will be fit for the final Rugby Championship test with the Boks in Johannesburg.

That decision will be made later in the week with Matt Todd on standby to take McCaw's place if he is not recovering.

Confidence in Sam Cane and Todd to fill his No7 duties is mirrored in the reservoir of five-eighths talent.

The question of "who can we find?" has been replaced by "who do we pick to wear the No10 jersey?". Colin Slade could be added to that list and there are several youngsters making strong impressions too.

At the start of this year Carter needed to play six tests out of the 15 on the calendar to join McCaw, Mils Muliaina, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock in the special 100 club.

Carter damaged a hand then a calf in June and with his latest shoulder injury is stranded on 97 caps.

If Carter's convalescence is untroubled, Hansen yesterday indicated the five-eighths would sidestep Japan and go straight to Europe to prepare for the final three tests of the year.

Deputies Cruden, Taylor and Barrett have all been damaged since the test series started in June but have played strongly each time they have been selected.

Taylor was used at fullback for Canterbury in the last ITM Cup round and has scrubbed up well after his injury on test debut.

"He has got the mental aptitude for it, it is tough on Colin [Slade] because he is here but Tom would have been here if he had not got that rib injury so they will swap over," Hansen said.

All 28 in the likely touring party, except Ben Franks who played yesterday, have been excused games before the squad leaves.

- NZ Herald

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