New Zealand’s star playmaker Beauden Barrett could miss this weekend’s crucial clash against France after sustaining a head injury.
The 30-year-old is currently undergoing return-to-play protocols after failing a HIA against Ireland.
Richie Mo’unga took the reins at fly-half but failed to stem the Irish tide as the hosts claimed a 29-20 victory.
Mo’unga is still a top-class operator but appears to have fallen behind the Blues player in the pecking order over recent weeks.
Hasn’t trained fully
“At this point he (Barrett) hasn’t trained fully. He did a bit of jogging,” All Blacks coach John Plumtree told reporters.
“He hasn’t completed all his protocols yet. He’s in doubt I would say, especially with Thursday being our final preparation day.”
The All Blacks could have a completely fresh half-back combination this weekend with Aaron Smith in contention after arriving following the birth of his son.
TJ Perenara is still the favourite to take the shirt, despite a less than convincing display in Dublin, but Smith provides another option in that position.
“It would have been nice for him to have a couple more games but family commitments around having his new baby boy have prevented that,” Plumtree said.
“It’s nice to have him here with his experience. He’s in contention and that’s something for us to consider.
“Brad Weber has played really well on this tour and Finlay Christie is up and coming. We have some really nice choices to make.”
France and All Blacks face off two years before they clash in the 2023 Rugby World Cup opener in Paris.
It is a huge game, particularly for the visitors after their defeat to Ireland, but Plumtree does not think it will have any bearing on their encounter in the global tournament.
“In two years’ time it won’t really matter. We’ll be different and they’ll be different,” Plumtree said.
“This week has been interesting because when the All Blacks lose, it’s not a greatest environment to be in for the first couple of days. Everyone’s pretty down and grumpy about it.
“It’s been a really long trip, hopefully we can get our game going around momentum and the gain line. If we can do that we can cause some big problems for them.”