Why Steve Hansen rolled the dice on Brodie Retallick

Author
Patrick McKendry, NZ Herald,
Section
Rugby,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 28 August 2019, 8:33PM
Brodie Retallick speaks to coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty
Brodie Retallick speaks to coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has admitted he and his fellow selectors have gambled on including injured lock Brodie Retallick in the World Cup squad.

Retallick dislocated his left shoulder in the draw against the Springboks in Wellington late last month and Hansen and company don't expect the 28-year-old to be available until the team's quarter-final on October 19.

The first of the All Blacks' four pool games is against South Africa in Yokohama on September 21, a match likely to determine whether Hansen's men face Ireland or Scotland in their first sudden-death match.

To mitigate against Retallick's expected absence – he is also likely to miss the pool games against Namibia, Canada and Italy – the All Blacks have named four locks in the squad, as expected.

The others are Sam Whitelock, Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu and while Whitelock and Barrett were incumbents who could virtually name themselves in the squad, Tuipulotu cemented his performance with a standout effort against the Wallabies at Eden Park recently. Of those three, only Whitelock has the experience and talent to come near Retallick, who has played 77 tests and is considered by many to be the best lock in the world.

"The update is: his shoulder is still sore," Hansen said of Retallick. "We don't expect him to play in the round robin. We're reasonably sure – and no disrespect to anyone else in our pool – that we will make the quarter-finals. And from there we don't know.

"At this point we've rolled the dice and will take him for that quarter-final. We'll see what happens from there. We think he's worthy of that risk. He's a quality player and he'll add plenty to us off the park as well."

The All Blacks have the capacity to replace injured players in Japan, but once a player is replaced he must take no further part in the tournament. It's possible, too, that Hansen is playing his cards close to his chest and Retallick could make an earlier return.

Speculation has built over the past few days that loose forward Liam Squire had made himself available for Japan after personal issues kept him out of the Rugby Championship, but Hansen confirmed Squire would be available only as an injury replacement.

"Liam is playing really well for Tasman and is really enjoying his rugby," Hansen said of the recent contact between the pair. "At the conclusion of the conversation it was agreed that he would make himself available if we required him as a replacement.

"It was a conversation between him and I around where he is at, how he is feeling … you've just got to respect the fact that he's been strong enough to do what he thinks is right for the All Blacks and himself."