Ian Foster has gambled on the fitness of experienced second-row Brodie Retallick by including him in the All Blacks’ 33-man squad to go to the World Cup despite him being injured.
Retallick was forced off the field midway through the opening half of Saturday’s Bledisloe Cup encounter in Dunedin with a knee injury, with Tupou Vaa’i coming on to replace him.
Both players have been included in New Zealand’s World Cup squad along with Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett as the three-time world champions’ four locks for the global showpiece in France.
Set for six-week stint on the sidelines
However, All Blacks medical staff have assessed Retallick’s injury and ruled him out for six weeks, with the World Cup’s start just under five weeks away.
“We’re not 100 per cent sure whether (his return) will be round one, round two of the World Cup,” Foster told AAP.
“But we really believe that he’s earned his selection and can manage that.”
The All Blacks squad announcement was made in Napier, home of the New Zealand National Provincial Championship (NPC) outfit, Hawke’s Bay Magpies, where Retallick plays his provincial rugby.
There was plenty of concern in New Zealand over Retallick’s fitness when he left the field in Dunedin against the Wallabies, and when his name was read out at the World Cup squad announcement, he received the biggest roar of all the All Blacks players.
“Maybe because I’m the only one from Hawke’s Bay,” he joked.
“It’s not ideal timing and yes it’s a little bit sore,” he said of his injury, which will keep him on the sidelines for the tournament opener against host nation France.
“Hopefully, I’ll be available for the second pool game. I’ll miss maybe two games, three at worst. I have to follow their plan and hope that it goes to the timeline.”
Experienced All Blacks squad
The All Blacks squad boasts a combined total of 1493 caps, with Whitelock the most experienced with 145 international appearances to his name, while scrum-half Cam Roigard is the most inexperienced with just one Test played so far.
Whitelock is set to feature in his fourth World Cup, while Retallick, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Dane Coles and captain Sam Cane will play in their third one.