Ardie Savea is ready to slot straight into the All Blacks side following the birth of his third child but the make-up of the back row for Saturday’s final Rugby Championship Test against Australia at Eden Park remains up in the air.
The powerhouse No 8, who was excused from the 39-37 win over Australia in Melbourne last Thursday, shared a picture of his newborn son Kove Masina-Moon on social media this week.
Savea will reinforce a back row that was battered and bruised from the Wallabies Test, with captain and openside flanker Sam Cane forced off after clashing heads with team-mate David Havili.
“He’s fresh here but he’s just had another baby so I’m sure there’s bound to be a couple of sleepless nights – but he’s great for us,” forwards coach Jason Ryan said at training on Tuesday.
“He’s a real energy-giver. We get a lot of energy off him in our group and having that week off will definitely freshen him up.”
While Savea will likely replace Hoskins Sotutu, Cane and Havili may miss Eden Park as they work through concussion protocols.
Blindside flanker Shannon Frizell, who missed Melbourne with a ribs injury, needs to pass a fitness test on Thursday, Ryan said.
Frizell’s return could mean Scott Barrett reverts to the second row, though Ryan was impressed with the forward’s work at the back of the scrum.
“I’d say he’s probably our best performing All Black forward to be honest,” he told reporters. “He’s been outstanding in every role.”
Unbeaten by Australia at Eden Park since 1986, defending champions New Zealand will seal back-to-back Rugby Championship titles if they beat the Wallabies on Saturday and Argentina upset South Africa in Durban.
Bonus points could also prove crucial, though, with the All Blacks and Springboks level on championship points.
“We’re treating it as a final,” Ryan said of Saturday’s clash. “Just because it’s Eden Park, doesn’t mean it’s a given, either.”