Rugby Union 2 years ago

Halfback dilemma for dominant All Blacks

  • Halfback dilemma for dominant All Blacks

    New Zealand's All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara scores the team's third try against Argentina's Los Pumas during their Rugby Championship match at Jose Amalfitani stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 1, 2016. / AFP / JUAN MABROMATA (Photo credit should read JUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images)

The All Blacks are riding high and injury-free but there are selection conundrums ahead of their final home Test of the year against Australia.

Lock Brodie Retallick (shoulder) and prop Joe Moody (knee) suffered minor knocks in the record 57-15 whipping of South Africa in Durban but are expected to be fit for the Eden Park clash on October 22.

No position will provide greater discussion next week than halfback, where first-choice regular Aaron Smith will be available after serving a one-match ban for a breach of team protocol.

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Hansen will need to determine if Smith is mentally ready to play, with the classy playmaker having chosen to return home early from South Africa when his involvement in a tryst with a woman in a disabled toilet at Christchurch Aiport was exposed.

TJ Perenara impressed in the No.9 jersey at Durban, as he did against Argentina a week earlier when Smith was rested.

Assistant coach Ian Foster admitted Perenara is making a strong case to hang onto the role, having linked fluently with Hurricanes halves partner Beauden Barrett and shown a nose for the tryline, bagging a double against the Springboks.

"If you look at him since June he's been trending upwards," Foster told journalists.

"He's becoming more of a master of the core skills he needs to do. You can see the confidence now."

Foster said a good example of Perenara's development came after he threw a couple of loose passes in Durban.

"He lost the grip on the ball but he managed to adjust.

"Mentally he's showed us he can climb over those little obstacles and keep playing. It's a good sign."

Elsewhere, the selectors will be torn between sticking with the players who cut an unbeaten swathe through the Rugby Championship and giving more game time to fringe hopefuls, as was successfully achieved with the likes of rookie centre Anton Lienert-Brown and flankers Ardie Savea, Liam Squire and Matt Todd.

Coach Steve Hansen says he won't take anything for granted ahead of a Test which could provide his team with an 18th successive win, surpassing the world record for a tier one nation.

"I wouldn't get too far ahead of ourselves. If we're going to go one step further, we've got to make sure we prepare really well," Hansen said.

"Australia are a good rugby side. They've got a history of turning up when there's a record on the table."

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