WELLINGTON – New Zealand had their preparations for their Bledisloe Cup test against Australia disrupted again with Rieko Ioane nursing a hamstring injury that could rule him out of Sunday’s match in Auckland.
Peter Umaga-Jensen has been hurriedly brought back into the extended squad as cover for Ioane, who started last week’s 16-16 draw in Wellington but was moved to the bench for the game at Eden Park.
Ioane was still in the 23-man match-day squad on Saturday with a final decision on his fitness due to be made on Sunday.
The All Blacks were forced to make two late changes last week, with fullback Beauden Barrett and replacement prop Nepo Laulala ruled out after initially being named in the squad.
Despite the disruptions, All Blacks captain Sam Cane said he had been pleased with his team’s approach this week after they were criticised for a lack of intensity against the Wallabies in the first game.
“We know where we stand after last week and we know where we need to be better,” Cane told reporters in Auckland on Saturday.
“I think we can make some real shifts when it comes to our carry and clean out work, and I think we can get off the defensive line a bit quicker and belt them there too.
“That’s test match footy in a nutshell – physicality, intensity.
“As a forward pack, that’s where we have to step up and deliver.”
Cane added that last week’s result did not increase the pressure on the team, who have held the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy since 2003.
“We’re well aware there’s lots of pressure on, but there always is with test matches,” he added. “There was lots on last week too.
“We’re just focused on what we can control.”