AS teams pick over a high injury toll from the opening round of the Rugby Championship, the All Blacks are happy to play the waiting game over injured prop Tony Woodcock.
Woodcock is suffering from a rib injury picked up in Saturday’s 27-19 Bledisloe Cup win over the Wallabies in Sydney.
Australia already know they will be without skipper and standout David Pocock for this week’s rematch in Auckland, with the loose forward heading under the knife to fix a knee issue.
Springbok hooker Bismark du Plessis, who was carried off in South Africa’s 27-7 win over newcomers Argentina in Cape Town, is also in the sick ward.
Woodcock, still a major force at 31 and with 87 tests under his belt, would be a big loss to the world champions, but with Australia still fronting up with less-than-menacing front rows, the team backs their ability even without the veteran loosehead.
“He has sore ribs and we won’t know until tomorrow when he trains, so we’ll make a decision then,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen told Fairfax NZ.
If he was ruled out it was likely they would draft in specialist cover in Wyatt Crocket and keep the versatile Ben Franks on the bench.
Hansen said he had sympathy for Bismark.
“It would have been devastating for South Africa to lose Bismark. He’s a really good player and you don’t like seeing great players getting injured, that’s a shame for him.”
Given the crowded nature of the rugby season however, injuries were a fact of life.
“It’s just your preparation time that gets smashed around. You have to be smarter with what you do on the training track earlier in the competition,” Hansen said, noting that the value of squads would come the deeper the teams got into the competition.
“(Player) depth will be a big advantage, the same as it is in any competition. I don’t think this year is any different to it has been in any other year. We are lucky that we have some quality players that are supporting the run-on team. But in saying that, so have Australia and South Africa and Argentina.”