Injury could spell opportunity for Frizell

Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizell scores a try as Blues first five-eighth Bryn Gatland closes...
Highlanders flanker Shannon Frizell scores a try as Blues first five-eighth Bryn Gatland closes in during their round 10 Super Rugby match. Photo: Getty Images
The All Blacks' preparation for a test in which they could retain the Bledisloe Cup has been hampered slightly by a knee injury to flanker Sam Cane.

Cane, dressed in a tracksuit top and trainers, took little part in this afternoon's captain's run at Eden Park. The 26-year-old, who has played 56 tests, was limping and clearly favoured a knee which he injured at training yesterday.

Skipper Kieran Read said his loose forward teammate should be okay to start against the Wallabies, but it wouldn't surprise to see Ardie Savea wearing the No 7 jersey instead.

With Matt Todd playing for Japanese club side Panasonic, the All Blacks have little specialist cover for openside flanker. Should Cane be ruled out, it's possible that Shannon Frizell, who was seen running a few moves off the back of the scrum at the end of training today, could come on to the reserves bench.

"It's just precautionary and he's having a day off today," Read said. "At the moment he's still good to go."

The All Blacks are usually up-front about injuries so it's possible they're giving Cane as much time as possible to prove his fitness, but there's little doubt that he is looming as a key figure at Eden Park.

Cane, Read and Liam Squire outplayed the much-heralded Wallabies loosies Michael Hooper and David Pocock in Sydney thanks to the All Blacks' loose forward excellence but also the domination of the pack as a whole. Savea is a superb ball runner but Cane is better at the breakdown and the All Blacks will be hoping he comes right in time as Pocock in particular is a massive threat in this area.

Read said he was confident his side had made the required improvements in preparation for a backlash from the visitors.

"It's been a great week from our point of view," he said. "It's awesome being at home and the boys have trained really well. I guess it's now about putting the icing on the cake and making sure we come out with great intensity tomorrow night.

"I think the focus is on our ball, and really looking after that pill; making sure we get the breakdown right. They've got some great guys over the ball."

Before last weekend's test at ANZ Stadium, coach Steve Hansen stressed the need to be prepared for a dangerous Wallabies team and nothing much had changed in terms of the All Blacks' mental approach.

"Every week we need to, and especially against a team that's coming off a loss," Read said. "We know the challenge, we've focused on that quite heavily, but more on us. We have to get our performance right. If we get that right hopefully it will dictate things on the scoreboard."

Read wouldn't be drawn on the so-called snub of Sam Whitelock's 100th test celebration last weekend. Was there ill-feeling? "Not really - for us, we focus on ourselves. We've just got to come out and do it again this week. The Aussies are going to be confident, we know that, they're a side which always has that innate ability to stay mentally fresh … Our job I guess is to start the game well and that's exactly what we're focused on."

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