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Fekitoa, Cane head to tribunal for tackles

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 20/11/2016 Angelo Risso

The imminent return of Ryan Crotty is likely to dampen talk of yet another All Blacks midfield crisis after centre Malakai Fekitoa was cited for a high tackle.

The 24-year-old Highlanders ace hit Irish winger Simon Zebo high and late in his side's gritty 21-9 win in Dublin, spending 10 minutes in the sin bin for his efforts.

In an eventful display, he also nabbed two of the world champions' three tries.

Head coach Steve Hansen admitted on Sunday that Fekitoa's tackle was late and awkward, but saw no malice in the challenge.

He would speak with the Tongan-born centre about controlling his enthusiasm but was glad to count on the returning Crotty if Fekitoa receives a suspension.

The Crusaders second-five suffered a hamstring injury in the side's 40-29 loss to Ireland in Chicago but has recovered well and is ready to play once again.

If selected, Crotty will likely line up at second-five, with young gun Anton Lienert-Brown reclaiming the No.13 jersey.

"I think he just needs to have a look at it, it was clumsy and it's not the way we want to play," Hansen said of Fekitoa.

"But it was a physical Test match, it's what you expect when two good sides have a crack at each other."

Openside Sam Cane was also cited for his bone-crunching challenge on Irish second-five Robbie Henshaw, which knocked the 23-year-old out cold.

However Hansen said the union would look to defend the Chiefs co-captain against any accusation of foul play, arguing Henshaw's injury resulted from a head clash.

Hansen and other members of NZ Rugby will head to London on Monday night to front the disciplinary committee, leaving assistant Ian Foster in charge.

Cane is crocked with an ankle problem and won't play regardless.

"I understand why the citing commissioner wants to cite it, the guy got knocked out," Hansen said.

"We'll go and do the hearing and treat it for what it is."

The performances of referee Jaco Peyper and TMO Jon Mason are expected to come under renewed scrutiny should either Fekitoa or Cane be handed further punishment.

Ireland boss Joe Schmidt refused to comment on Peyper's performance in the wake of his side's loss, but was clearly frustrated by a number of his rulings.

With the penalty count favouring Ireland 14 to four, Hansen also had plenty to complain about, demanding consistency in Saturday's post-match press conference.

But he was relieved to see his troops produce the goods in defence after shipping five tries to a clinical Irish outfit in the Windy City.

They would now look to close the 2016 Test campaign on the right note against France.

"They were in the house all week and you get that when you get beaten, we were beaten fair and square in Chicago and we've come back," Hansen said.

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