Key Points:

Hawke's Bay hooker Hikawera Elliot and Wellington halfback Piri Weepu have been rushed into the injury-hit All Blacks squad as they prepare for the Tri-Nations rugby test against Australia on Saturday.

Elliot and Weepu will join the squad in Auckland today, with Auckland halfback Taniela Moa due to train with them also as of tomorrow.

A battered and beaten All Blacks returned to Auckland last night with several walking wounded after a 19-34 loss to Australia in Sydney last Saturday.

Both halfbacks from that defeat are under injury clouds, with Andy Ellis (ribs) and Jimmy Cowan (knee and broken nose) identified as doubtful starters by assistant coach Steve Hansen.

If one of them is ruled out, it will bring the out-of-favour Weepu back into contention from New Zealand Maori duty, with Brendon Leonard (knee) still sidelined.

Hooker Andrew Hore has a bruised hip although his condition was not originally thought to be too serious.

There are few replacement contenders with Corey Flynn injured and Tom Willis overseas, and All Blacks management have turned to Elliot for cover.

Elliot, 22, has played 26 matches for Hawke's Bay and this year broke into the Hurricanes ranks for the Super 14 competition and played for New Zealand Maori for the first time.

As well, Chiefs lock Kevin O'Neill, not wanted for the trip to Sydney, will be back training with the team today.

An All Blacks spokesman told NZPA the potential replacements had been called in both to offer cover and ensure the coaches had enough players at their disposal for training purposes.

"Sometimes it just means we can train better, so the reasoning is twofold. It will help us with training and it will give us cover."

- NZPA