Reshuffle for All Blacks on Bledisloe eve

The Rugby Championship
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

The All Blacks have been forced into a front row reshuffle on the eve of the opening Bledisloe Cup match, with starting hooker Nathan Harris ruled out.

Harris ruptured his ACL at training on Thursday, ruling him out of the rest of the season, pushing Codie Taylor into the starting hooker spot.

The injury means that Hurricanes hooker, and usual starter, Dane Coles, will come on to the bench robbing them of the chance to keep him in cotton wool on his return from a rib injury.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said earlier in the week that Coles was being treated cautiously but would be able to play if a prize like the World Cup was at stake.

Nathan Harris has ruptured his ACL. Photo: Getty ImagesOn news of the injury, Hansen said Coles would be able to play as many minutes as the side needed.

“If something happened in the first minute, he’ll get the 80, no problem,” he said.

“The reason we didn’t play him was because of the type of injury he’s got they tend to niggle on so if we gave him the extra week he wouldn’t have that problem.

“Now we don’t have that luxury so out he goes when the time comes.”

Codie Taylor will start at hooker in the Bledisloe. Photo: Getty ImagesHansen said a replacement for Harris would be decided upon their return to New Zealand next week.

All Blacks skipper Kieran read admitted the loss of Harris was a distraction they’d prefer not to have on the eve of a Bledisloe Cup match, after an injury to centre George Moala earlier in the week and the loss of Sonny Bill Wiliams to an achilles injury..

“I guess it is a little bit of a distraction late in the piece that you don’t want but a guy like Dane Coles who’s vastly experienced just comes onto the bench and Codie who’s had plenty of reps this week, things just roll on from our point of view.”

The development will shake up the All Blacks' lineout somewhat, in an area that was a key to their World Cup victory.

Read said they would still be looking to target Australia in the set piece, after they dropped Scott Fardy to the bench, leaving them with fewer noted jumpers, but that couldn't be the be all end all for the team.

"It seems to be set pieces now can be just the start of play," he said.

"We'll certainly be looking to put as much pressure on as we can, considering they've probably only got the two main jumpers but there's other areas of the game we've got to be wary of, especially kind of their trick plays around the back of a lineout and with (Michael) Hooper and (David) Pocock running off the back of mauls and things as well.

"It's just a starting of rugby nowadays and we'll look to put as much pressure as we can."

With a 13-year stranglehold on the Bledisloe Cup and a 15-year winning streak over the Wallabies in New Zealand with two home Tests to come in the series, Read said the opportunity presented in the first Test could set the tone for the series.

Dane Coles will come off the bench. Photo: Getty ImagesThe All Blacks haven’t won in Sydney since 2013, a record that has caused them to change their preparations this time around, with the team spending an entire week in Sydney ahead of the Test.

“In terms of the Bledisloe Cup, a first game is pretty crucial,” Read said.

“We know the significance of playing in Sydney and a Bledisloe Cup game is always a massive occasion.

“We’re looking forward to the game, we know how tough it’s going to always is with these two sides and it’s going to be a big game.”