While losing to Ireland would have been disappointing enough for the All Blacks on Saturday evening, there’s some added injury to the insult with second-rower Brodie Retallick likely to miss the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship.
Retallick was involved in a head clash with Ireland prop Andrew Porter in the 49th minute of the match. Porter, as the defending player, was rightly held responsible for the clash and was shown a yellow card for the dangerous tackle, which forced Ireland to play with 14 men for 10 minutes. Retallick, however, was not able to return to the field after the tackle and in the post-match press conference, All Blacks coach Ian Foster revealed the 95-cap lock won’t be back on the park anytime soon.
“He’s got a broken cheekbone from a head-on-head contact,” said Foster following the 32-22 defeat.
“Broken bones are sort of six to eight [weeks]”He added when queried for how long Retallick would be out of action.
If Retallick is indeed sidelined for just six weeks, he will likely be ready for action in time for the All Blacks’ first home game of the Rugby Championship when they take on Argentina in Christchurch. He won’t, however, feature against the Springboks in South Africa over the opening two rounds of the competition.
Should Retallick’s injury require a longer time to heal – or if he’s simply not deemed match-fit even once he’s allowed back on the field, he might only be available for the final rounds of the tournament, when the All Blacks take on the Wallabies in Melbourne and Auckland.
Either way, losing the fourth most experienced player in the squad will be a big blow for Foster’s men, who already have to cope without the likes of first-choice loosehead prop Joe Moody and first-choice midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown.
The fact that Porter was only sin-binned for the tackle on Retallick will have also hit a few nerves in New Zealand, given an almost identical tackle from All Black Angus Ta’avao in last weekend’s loss saw the tighthead prop red-carded and banned for three matches.
Foster agreed during the post-match presser that Porter’s yellow was likely another case of ‘card lottery’.
Compounding frustrations will be the fact that New Zealand-born midfielder Bundee Aki was also shown to have connected with Ofa Tuungafasi’s head with his shoulder when recklessly attempting to clear out a breakdown early in the second half.
While the All Blacks were able to score almost immediately after the foul play – however unintentional – from Aki, Tuungafasi had to leave the field for an HIA and never returned to the game. Despite Aki’s illegal clearout being plastered on the screens at Sky Stadium, referee Wayne Barnes missed it entirely, and Aki was free to play for the remainder of the game.
It was a dark day for All Blacks supporters on Saturday, and with Retallick now set to miss NZ’s tour to South Africa, there could be more pain to come.
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