Injury to All Black Jack Goodhue creates midfield mystery

All Blacks and Crusaders midfield Jack Goodhue won’t play again in 2021 because of a knee injury. HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

All Blacks coach Ian Foster must hate opening injury reports following each Super Rugby Aotearoa round.

He can’t say he doesn’t know what’s coming. It’s inevitable that fit young players who march to work each weekend will return with cracked bones, torn tendons and concussions.

From there it’s a matter of determining how long it will take to patch them up. Crusaders centre Jack Goodhue, whose demeanour and defence have been an asset to the All Blacks midfield since 2018, won’t play again this year.

Neither will talented Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava. He, like Goodhue, has a serious knee injury and his hopes of making his All Blacks debut in 2021 have evaporated.

It’s also too early for Foster, who has already lost captain Sam Cane for up to six months with a chest injury, to think the worst has passed.

Fifty-test loosehead prop Joe Moody is also in strife after suffering a significant injury to the base of his big toe for the Crusaders last weekend. More scans are required.

At least All Blacks back rower Ardie Savea will only be unavailable for up to eight weeks because of the knee injury suffered while leading the Hurricanes.

It’s hardly good news. But when so many others are battling serious injuries, you take what you can get.

1 What now for the All Blacks midfield?

Foster has options.

Last year Anton Lienert-Brown, Rieko Ioane, Ngani Laumape, Peter Umaga-Jensen and Goodhue were used at No 12 or 13, with Goodhue and Lienert-Brown ranked as the top pairing.

With Goodhue unavailable, Foster could either start Ioane at centre and flick Lienert-Brown to second five-eighth or put Laumape at No 12. Braydon Ennor, who can play wing or centre, is due back mid-year after rupturing his ACL in September.

The All Blacks’ domestic tests against Italy and Fiji are scheduled for July. The exact dates have yet to be determined. A bit like the compilation of the ABs midfield.

2 If Sam Whitelock doesn’t captain the All Blacks in Cane’s absence, who does?

All Blacks Scott Barrett, Aaron Smith, Brad Weber, Patrick Tuipulotu and Savea (when the latter pair are fit) are in leadership roles with their respective Super Rugby teams.

Codie Taylor does a decent job when Barrett isn’t available for the Crusaders and Beauden Barrett, currently on playing sabbatical in Japan, captained the All Blacks against the Barbarians in London in 2017.

Lock Whitelock, with 122 test caps and having led the All Blacks six times, deserves to be at the shortest odds; that’s unless Foster has an alternative plan, in case Cane doesn’t play in the 2023 World Cup in France.

Whitelock will turn 34 during the tournament. Richie McCaw was 35 when he was All Blacks skipper at the 2015 World Cup in Britain.

3 Akira Ioane’s slide out of the Blues’ top XV adds heat to the No 6 conversation.

The in-form Ioane was preferred at blindside flanker for the All Blacks’ final test against Argentina of 2020, a comprehensive 38-0 victory.

The biggest loser from that reshuffle was Shannon Frizell, with Hoskins Sotutu on the bench. Now Ioane can’t make the Blues starting team, as Tom Robinson captains the side at No 6 in the absence of the injured Tuipulotu.

The flame-haired Robinson, who could also potentially cover lock at a pinch for the All Blacks, may be making his move.

4 Don’t forget Cullen Grace and Luke Jacobson, either.

Both can cover No 8 and No 6. Jacobson, having been ignored by Foster last year, is making a statement with the Chiefs.

The Crusaders’ Grace, by contrast, has been a slow burner in 2021. The so-called second season syndrome is nothing new.

5 SRA is full of misfortune and stories of bad luck.

The Highlanders’ Connor Garden-Bachop knows that more than most.

His bravery at taking the high ball on the fly, and running hard at the line, added some oomph to SRA.

A cracked wrist puts and end to that. And there are still 3 rounds, and a final, of this gruelling tournament yet to be played.

If the trans-Tasman competition isn’t a goer, it’s back to the SRA for another round. If anyone is left standing, that is.

 

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