Saturday 16 December 2017

Crotty out of rematch while Smith faces race to be fit

All Black Ryan Crotty tackles Elliot Daly during Saturday's match at Eden Park, Auckland. Centre Crotty is likely to miss Saturday’s second Test in Wellington. Photo: Nigel Marple/Reuters
All Black Ryan Crotty tackles Elliot Daly during Saturday's match at Eden Park, Auckland. Centre Crotty is likely to miss Saturday’s second Test in Wellington. Photo: Nigel Marple/Reuters
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

The All Blacks are likely to be without full-back Ben Smith and centre Ryan Crotty for Saturday's second Test in Wellington.

Crotty is out after straining his hamstring during the first-half of his side's 30-15 win at Eden Park, while Smith is a major doubt after suffering his third concussion of the season early on.

Chiefs utility back Damian McKenzie has been called up to the squad, with Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Ngani Laumape released to the Hurricanes for tomorrow's final mid-week game.

Smith captained the world champions in their warm-up win over Samoa, but has been troubled by head injuries this season and coach Steve Hansen is keen to err on the side of caution.

"Obviously there's something going on there that's not quite right, so we need to find out what that is," he said.

"It's like any concussion; until such time as he goes through all the protocols and passes them he's not going to be available.

"It's day one and he's still to go through anything in regards to testing. It's not the sort of thing you rush into. We'll give him a few days."

Anton Lienert-Brown will come in for Crotty, while the All Blacks have a range of options to replace Smith.

Hansen has ruled out the prospect of another concussion victim, hooker Dane Coles, making a surprise return during the series, despite a return to training after a long spell out with symptoms.

Flanker Liam Squire is expected to return in time for the third Test in Auckland to further boost Hansen's options, however.

The Lions, meanwhile, have no fresh injuries after Saturday's loss as Warren Gatland turns his attention to the second Test.

He revealed that Courtney Lawes and Jonathan Joseph have been carrying knocks in the last two weeks, with second-row Lawes struggling with a hip flexor problem and centre Joseph suffering a wrist issue.

Both players are fit enough to face the Super Rugby champions tomorrow at the Westpac Stadium.

Up against them will be the quartet of All Blacks and Hansen felt it was important to release them for the game.

"The reason we are letting them play is this event is only once every 12 years," he said.

"It wouldn't be fair on them not to allow them to play and then not play them in Test matches. We don't know what's going to happen over the next couple of weeks selection wise.

"All of them will grow in experience. Apart from Julian they're all young players so the hit-out against the Lions will be great for them and their careers and it's something I think we need to honour as best we can.

"Lions tours are important. We don't want to lose them.

"You saw last night they create a great Test match, but their fans bring a lot too. They're outstanding in their enthusiasm.

"It's an occasion and something we don't want to lose."

Irish Independent

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