Blacks’ midfield mess

New Zealand centres Conrad Smith and Luke McAlister are likely to miss the remainder of the Tri-Nations through injury.

Smith was substituted at half time of his side’s 19-18 victory over Australia as a result of a torn hamstring, while McAlister has suffered a fractured cheekbone.

‘The two centres are not too good and I think Conrad will take some time,’ Henry said. ‘I haven’t talked to the doctor about recovery time yet. There’s a few casualties in there.’

Henry said it was also likely McAlister would miss their remaining Tests against South Africa in Hamilton on 12 September and the Wallabies in Wellington on 19 September.

Asked for his estimation of his side’s narrow win which keeps their title hopes alive Henry said, ‘I’m just very proud of the character shown by the players.

‘The win’s the result of a lot of mental toughness. We didn’t really get the roll of the dice and we kept on coming back and fronting up.’

Meanwhile, the Wallabies have injury concerns of their own despite fullback James O’Connor being cleared of serious injury.

Flanker Rocky Elsom has a syndesmosis in his left ankle, while lock Nathan Sharpe is nursing a shoulder problem. Centre Berrick Barnes suffered a neck injury and concussion.

‘James O’Connor’s X-ray was clear so that’s a good start,’ Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said. ‘It was just a blow to the lower leg … but obviously it’s still a bit uncomfortable. Sharpey [Nathan Sharpe] was pretty sore.’

Deans lamented the defeat, the Wallabies’ third on the bounce, but remained optimistic that they were making progress.

‘We didn’t give it away as much as the previous two,’ Deans said, pointing to an old student as the difference. ‘Dan Carter showed his class in the last 10 minutes. He got field position and converted it into points.

‘They are masters at getting home and we are working hard at acquiring that. We haven’t mastered it yet but we are making headway. I’m sure we will get there.’