All Blacks trio battling knocks

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock is a serious doubt for the second Bledisloe Cup Test, while playmakers Richie Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett are also nursing knocks.

All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree on Tuesday confirmed that the trio were all fitness concerns going into Sunday’s second Test against the Wallabies at Eden Park.

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Whitelock sat out the All Blacks’ training session on Wednesday and looks the most likely to miss out after the 118-capped lock picked up a concussion in the 16-16 draw in Wellington last Sunday.

‘Sam had some headaches after the game,’ Plumtree said. ‘So we’ll work through the concussion protocols and we’ll see how he gets on this week. Hopefully, he’ll be all right for the weekend.’

The All Blacks have, however, been able to welcome Whitelock’s Crusaders teammate Scott Barrett back to full fitness. The 26-year-old missed the entire Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign after undergoing surgery on his foot.

‘He’s followed his rehab programme perfectly. This was potentially his return-to-play date, so it’s just how we use Scotty – whether we send him back to play for Taranaki or he plays a role for us will be something we’ll consider.

‘It’s been a little while since he last played, so all these factors have to be taken into it. But Scotty is a pretty honest boy, he knows where he’s at, and he’s done the work with the team the last few weeks, not just on his conditioning, but his contact work and set-piece stuff.’

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Meanwhile, playmakers Mo’unga and Beauden Barrett are both battling less serious injury niggles.

Plumtree confirmed that Mo’unga picked up a knock to his shoulder during the first Test, but was confident that he would be fit to start this weekend.

Barrett was a late withdrawal from the team to play in Wellington after being named to start at fullback and was replaced by Damian McKenzie.

‘He’s looking likely, absolutely, but he was looking likely this time last week as well,’ Plumtree said on the oldest Barrett brother. ‘He’s got a day off tomorrow, then a big day Friday. So, we’ll see how he gets on.’

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