By Alan Dymock
THE AUSSIES have bombed the conveyer belt.
After the Wallabies bumbled and bled during the Bledisloe massacre, falling 47-29 to the All Black in Sydney, they can at least comfort themselves with the knowledge that two of the Kiwi fly-halves will be missing form the second Test in Wellington.
While second-row Luke Romano is out indefinitely with a torn abductor tendon, the rudder-men Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett will miss the second-round match with respective knee and calf issues.
It is expected that Barrett will return from the calf strain for the Argentina Test in Hamilton while medical staff will assess the damage done to Cruden’s right posterior cruciate ligament during his rehabilitation. He could potentially be out for six weeks.
Of course, the All Blacks have a few backs in cold storage, with 10-cap Highlander Colin Slade – soon to join the Canterbury Crusaders – brought in alongside 24-year-old jack of all backs Tom Taylor, who has experienced All Black camps before. He may be a utility figure at the Crusaders, but he can slip easily into the patterns put out by Steve Hansen.
Which is the worry. New Zealand picked an experienced side for the first Test and new names like Steve Luatua were able to parachute in and have a dominant game thanks to the rest of the team being efficient and strong. The blindside made more tackles than any other All Black, chopping down 13 attackers and pulling off five assisted-tackles.
Slade and Taylor may not be able to boss proceedings quite so much should they be needed, but the hope is that Dan Carter can shake off his hamstring troubles. If not, though, the All Black pack should be in control again, to such an extent that whoever is at fly-half should be afforded time.
This, in truth, does rely somewhat on which Australia team is put out. However, with no Hugh McMeniman – the blindside who won his first cap since 2008 is out to have reconstructive surgery on his shoulder – and the likes of Ben Mowen and Michael Hooper set to contend with the incorrigible breakdown-menace Richie McCaw again on Saturday, they need someone who can both obliterate rucks and race out to whichever half-back Hansen selects.
It remains to be seen if the balance of power will change at all in the second Bledisloe outing of 2013, despite these fresh injury problems.