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Kaino injury could open door for youngsters

Reuters Reuters 17/09/2016
All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino © Getty Images All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino

A shoulder injury to All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino could open up the rest of the Rugby Championship to some less experienced faces, coach Steve Hansen said on Saturday.

Hansen told reporters the 33-year-old Kaino had damaged the AC joint in his shoulder early in the second half of the All Blacks' 41-13 victory over South Africa in Christchurch that sealed their Championship triumph.

"Jerome is pretty sore," Hansen said. "How bad it is, we won't know until tomorrow but I am picking he won't be jumping around doing handstands."

The All Blacks, who moved to 20 points on the table and now cannot be caught after the Wallabies beat Argentina 36-20 in Perth, have a week off before they travel to Buenos Aires to face the Pumas.

Depending on how serious Kaino's injury is, it still should allow Hansen to give rookie loose forwards Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire an opportunity in their final two games of the competition.

Hansen, whose planning since he took the top job in 2012 has meant he has brought new players through gradually, said he had been contemplating shaking up his side anyway after having played seven tests already this season .

"We are getting to that point of the season where we have to roll the dice," he said. "We can't keep playing the same athletes the whole time and expect them to have that same zip and zing at the end of the season.

"Come the end of the season, we are going to go around the world twice and play seven test matches.

"We are going to have to use the rest of the squad and that will probably start in Argentina. There will probably be some new faces on the bench or even starting.

"We will have to play it smart."

Hansen's player depth had been noticed by Springboks coach Allister Coetzee, though the All Blacks mentor was surprised at how quickly the team was developing after they lost six veterans following last year's World Cup victory.

"I knew that we had some really talented people but we had also lost a lot of talent," Hansen said.

"The thing we lost the most was experience," he added in reference to Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who all ended their international careers having accumulated a combined 707 caps.

"What I have been so pleased with is how Reado (captain Kieran Read) has stepped up and his leadership group have gone to another level." (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ian Chadband)

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