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All Blacks assistant coach Steve Hansen says Richie McCaw will play against Argentina this weekend, despite fears that a troublesome foot injury could keep the New Zealand captain on the sidelines for the quarter-final at Eden Park.
“He’s great,” Hansen told a press conference at the team hotel. “He’s going to play on Sunday.”
In February McCaw was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot and has struggled with soreness since having surgery to have a screw inserted.
But while the 30-year-old flanker was a late withdrawal from the team to play Canada last week, Hansen is confident McCaw will be on the pitch come Sunday.
“He’s going to play this week which is exciting,” he said. “We know that he’s had a foot problem for a while.
“We’re down to the business end and whilst we’re still in the tournament he’ll be available. We’re just going to have to make sure we do what we’ve done with him all year and what he’s done at the Crusaders and that’s manage it.
“At this stage in the tournament, every team is playing through a bit of pain. I mean how many Tests have we had over the last six, seven weeks including the pre-season Tests that the northern hemisphere guys would have had? People are going to have little niggles, it’s just how big a threshold you’ve got for that pain.”
No long-term risk
While McCaw faces the prospect of playing with the assistance of painkillers, Hansen is adamant there’s no risk of McCaw doing long-term damage.
“We wouldn’t be playing him if he could do that,” he said. “As long as we’re in the tournament, I’m confident he’ll be able to play.”
Hansen also believes McCaw’s injury is exacerbated by the physicality of the position he plays on the field.
“I mean it’s no surprise that he can’t do much Mondays and Tuesdays because his body gets smacked over,” the assistant coach said. “He’s in a position where all flankers are. I’d suggest (David) Pocock and various other flankers around the world feel the same, (Heinrich) Brüssow would be the same with the Boks.
“It’s a hard position to play, so you’ve just got to give them the opportunity to recover so that they can play.”
Hansen also allayed fears about McCaw’s apparently light training schedule, wearing running shoes rather than boots, in the lead-up to the All Blacks’ knockout match against Argentina.
“He’s done plenty of training, it’s just the type of training he does,” he said. “We don’t get him involved in the cleanout for example, the physical, hard body contact stuff. He does other training, it’s fine.
"When you think about it, when you've got a foot injury, boots are a little bit tighter than shoes and there's more support and give in a shoe than there is in a boot. So it just makes common sense."
Hansen said Zac Guildford was unlikely to be available for selection this weekend after a scan on Wednesday confirmed a small hamstring tear while prop Tony Woodcock is recovering well from a heavy head knock and should be fit to play.