Openside flank Matt Todd joined the All Blacks at training although the management has denied that his involvement is a sign that Richie McCaw is battling with injury.
The All Blacks have operated for the entire World Cup campaign with no specialist cover for McCaw. New Zealand’s premier opensider and captain has struggled with a foot injury since before the 2011 Super Rugby season, and insiders say that he will undergo surgery after the global tournament.
There were doubts that he would play against Argentina in last week’s quarter-final, and rumours persist that he is not full fit ahead of this week’s showdown with Australia.
Todd was spotted at the Auckland airport earlier this week, and then at an All Blacks training session on Wednesday. According to stuff.co.nz, the All Blacks management has said that Todd ‘provided opposition’ at the practice session, as did several Blues players. Todd apparently did this in the lead up to the All Blacks’ pool game against France when the team was training in Christchurch.
All Blacks manager Darren Shand suggested that Todd’s presence in Auckland was coincidental, as he was already in town to visit his girlfriend.
The All Blacks have managed to win without McCaw at this tournament, but they would struggle to compete against a team as strong as the Wallabies, who possess the world’s leading fetcher in David Pocock, without a specialist No 7. If McCaw was unavailable, Todd would prove a worthy alternative.
There could even be a case made for Todd’s inclusion on the bench, as McCaw may also battle to last 80 minutes this Sunday.