Cape Town - Veteran
tighthead prop Owen Franks is the only prospective injury concern for
the All Blacks ahead of their build-up for their Rugby Championship and
Bledisloe Cup opener against Australia in Sydney next week.
When announcing the squad for the series, coach Steve Hansen said Franks' Achilles tendon was an on-going issue, although it had been nursed through the British and Irish Lions campaign and they would consider their options when he returned to the squad after returning from South Africa with the Crusaders.
Hansen suggested they may need an immediate short-term option and then a longer term approach in order to keep him fit for the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign.
The coach added that if it wasn't coming right he may need a break but if it was they could continue to use him.
Nehe Milner-Skudder's recall after recovering from injury gave the All Blacks a point of difference on the wing. They had Waisake Naholo, Rieko Ioane and with Julian Savea previously they had had three big men as wings.
"Nehe's a little bit different in that he's electric on his feet and electric fullstop really so he brings a different type of game for us. We don't see him as a fullback," Hansen told the All Blacks' official website.
Savea had been disappointed when learning he wouldn't be included.
"You want them to be disappointed because otherwise they are not the right people for your team," added Hansen.
"He is disappointed and so he should be. He's done a lot in the jersey, he's enhanced while he's worn it. His time's not over."
They would be keeping in touch with him and had some good messages to give him when they spoke.
Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue missed the final selection after being a replacement player during the Lions series. He had done everything right and was a player of high quality who had been outstanding in the Super Rugby final. He had come close but there were four outstanding rugby players ahead of him.
"He just has to be patient, it's a matter of when, as opposed to if, he plays for the All Blacks," explained Hansen.
"He understands that."
Hansen said the flyhalves Beauden Barrett and Lima Sopoaga would be backed by Damian McKenzie in a utility role. He said they were also looking at Crusaders fly-half Richie Mo'unga and now that Aaron Cruden was gone it was time to build a third player and they would be assessing who that player would be.
In lieu of Charlie Faumuina's departure for overseas, Nepo Laulala was the preferred option to replace him and in the quest for more depth at tighthead prop Atu Moli had been included as the apprentice to work with the All Blacks and scrum coach Mike Cron to build his game.
Hansen said the Crusaders effort in going to Johannesburg to win the Super Rugby title had been tremendous. It had only been done once before, by the Crusaders, in Canberra, in 2000.
"You could see in that last 20 minutes they were absolutely stonkered and running out of petrol," he said.
"They just hung on, it meant a lot for them, they worked for each other and they got the result they had been trying to achieve so they'll be very, very happy and should be extremely proud of what they achieved because no-one else has done it. The Lions are a good side.
"To be able to win away from home on the highveld is some achievement."