A day after their historic defeat by Ireland, the All Blacks have had some good news with positive injury reports ahead of their next test match against Italy in Rome.
While center George Moala has been ruled out of the remainder of their European tour with a shoulder injury, a hamstring injury suffered by Moala’s midfield partner Ryan Crotty during Saturday’s match at Chicago is less serious than first thought.
Crotty will remain on tour and is likely to be fit for New Zealand’s final test against France in Paris.
Lock Brodie Retallick is also set to join the touring squad in Rome after missing the test against Ireland with concussion.
Ireland won Saturday’s match 40-29 to post their first-ever win over New Zealand, ending a winless run spanning 29 matches and 111 years.
Head coach Steve Hansen said New Zealand was still smarting from Saturday’s defeat, though he accepted the best team won.
“Everyone is a bit sore but probably the biggest part that is sore is their pride,” Hansen told reporters. “This team is about history and it has still got a lot of positive history.
“We can’t change it. Ireland played better than we did and deserved to win.
“When you look through the ages I can think of Christchurch (2012) when they probably should have won, Dublin (2013) when they probably should have won. They came out this time and played really well so I don’t think it is something that is going to hang around our necks and strangle us to death because we lost to a good Ireland side. What we have got to do is fix the issues in our game.”
New Zealand would have faced potentially difficult selection issues if Crotty had been ruled out of the tour as expected immediately after the match at Soldier Field.
The loss of both centers who started Saturday’s match would have left the All Blacks with limited midfield resources: only Anton Lienert-Brown and Malakai Fekitoa would have remained among the squad’s specialist centers.
Several other players, including fullback Ben Smith, can cover center and the selectors may have considered promoting the uncapped Jordie Barrett who is with the touring team as an apprentice _ into the full squad.
New Zealand was without its top three locks on Saturday. It had previously lost Retallick to concussion and Sam Whitelock to an ankle injury. Luke Romano was then forced to return to New Zealand by a family bereavement.
That forced the All Blacks to start backrower Jerome Kaino at lock on Saturday in a selection move that failed as their lineout struggled in the first half. Scott Barrett came off the bench to replace Kaino and to score a try on test debut.