Assistant All Blacks rugby coach Wayne Smith effectively gave Daniel Carter the all-clear to face Wales this weekend then warned Warren Gatland’s baiting could backfire on the hosts.
The All Blacks had a training free day in rainy Cardiff to recover from the rigours of their Bledisloe Cup victory in Tokyo, with the hematoma in Carter’s right calf muscle the biggest talking point ahead of Sunday’s (AEDT) Test at Millennium Stadium.
Smith said the All Blacks coaches had settled on their side, which wouldn’t be publicly revealed until early Thursday (AEDT), but it appeared Carter would be there as he sits just 15 points shy of Andrew Mehrtens’ All Blacks Test pointscoring record of 967.
“Rather than a strain it’s a bruise. He’s walking around pretty well, he’ll do a managed run tomorrow as part of training, then it’s just a matter of getting him through to the game,” Smith said.
“I’d imagine he would be (available).”
Luke McAlister (ankle) would probably be fit for selection, Smith said, while Tamati Ellison and Liam Messam (both calf) were unlikely.
Meanwhile, Gatland’s comment about the All Blacks losing their aura continued to receive plenty of mileage as the Welsh try to break their 56-year, 20-Test losing streak against their old foes.
Smith saw the newspaper headline and labelled it a coaching tactic from the former All Blacks hooker, whose side led at halftime in the Cardiff Test a year ago before losing 29-9.
“Some (All Blacks) players will use that as a bit of motivation to prove something,” Smith said.
“Part of his philosophy will be to try and get a rise out of us, and part of it will be to try and get his own players up.”
Smith said it was up to other people to decide whether the All Blacks had lost their aura after four Test defeats this year.
They haven’t lost a Test on a northern hemisphere tour since 2002, aside from the obvious hiccup in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final against France.
Smith hinted at minor changes from the 32-19 win over the Wallabies, aside from the suspensions of Sitiveni Sivivatu and Tony Woodcock which should see winger Zac Guildford and prop Wyatt Crockett called up.
“Part of the idea of this tour was to put heat on people, make it competitive and make sure players understood they were playing for their futures,” Smith said.