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Moala injury creates All Black selection headache

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George Moala’s knee injury has ruled him out of this weekend’s Rugby Championship – Bledisloe Cup clash which has created a selection headache for the All Blacks.

Media in Australia have said that Moala’s injury leaves the All Blacks “vulnerable” as he is the incumbent 13 in the All Black squad from their series victory over Wales in June.

Ryan Crotty is a likely replacement and then there is last year’s favourite back up Malakai Fekitoa and the uncapped Anton Lienert-Brown.

The injury would have been less of a concern had Sonny Bill Williams not been injured in the Olympics but coach Ian Foster sees it an opportunity to build further depth.

“Well it’s certainly different, isn’t? People are used to the [Ma’a] Nonu-Smith [combination] and chuck Sonny Bill [Williams] in there as well. ”

“I wouldn’t call it vulnerable, but I’d certainly say we’re building combinations,” Foster told the Dominion Post.

“We’ve been through that in June and we learned a lot about our guys in June and actually they learned a lot and actually passed a few tests. But this is certainly going to be the next step up for us.

“There’s no hiding the fact that we’ve got players that are less experienced than the players who’ve been there in the past. But if you look at the guys we’ve got there Ryan’s had a number of tests under his belt and Malakai’s the same.”

The likely midfield combination on Saturday is Crotty and Fekitoa.

Meanwhile elsewhere in the team flanker Sam Cane has made it through two training sessions without incident after recovering from a head knock. Hooker Dane Coles is still not “a hundred” as he seeks to get over a rib injury

It is understood that the All Black selectors have made a decision about which one of Beauden Barrett or Aaron Cruden will start at ANZ Stadium but the coaches are also still considering Lima Sopoaga. .

“It’s been difficult, I guess. I think when you look at both teams we’ve both got some options with how we structure our backs, haven’t we? It’s probably not easy for us to guess what they’re doing and it’s probably not that easy for them to guess what were doing

“At the end of the day whoever goes out on the park for us is going to be geared up and we know it’s going to be exactly the same with the Wallabies.”

“I think there’s a lot of talk about who’s starting for us (but) it’s about the squad, it’s about the 23 and how we balance that and we know that a similar mentality [exists] with the Wallabies.

“So I wouldn’t get too hooked up about who’s starting and who’s finishing. It’s going to be about the full 80 minutes.”

The All Blacks are 2/7 to win the Rugby Championship.

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