TOKYO (AP)If the decision was left to Brodie Retallick, he’d be running out for the All Blacks next week.
When it comes to persuading the New Zealand medical team he’s ready to play in the Rugby World Cup after dislocating his left shoulder more than eight weeks ago, Retallick admitted Monday, with a grin: ”I’ve been trying.”
The real decision-makers know better.
”You never totally trust a competitive person like Brodie. He’ll tell you he’s 100 percent,” assistant coach Ian Foster said, also grinning.
Retallick sustained the dislocation and nerve damage when he was illegally cleared out of a ruck by South Africa’s RG Snyman in a test on July 27. Retallick accepted the injury as part of the game. ”I’m not owed an apology,” he said.
A former world player of the year and 2015 World Cup winner, Retallick thought he was going to miss this tournament until a few days before the squad announcement. He was aqua jogging with his wife in a pool when he felt the shoulder click into place. After a sharp, brief pain, he could lift his arm above his head for the first time since the injury. He’s been improving since then.
The All Blacks are gambling on Retallick being available for the quarterfinals, which start on Oct. 19. At this point, the shoulder has full motion, it’s almost as strong as it was, he’s been lifting for a week, and undergoing soft contact on tackle bags. He has to pass full contact and tackle tests.
Foster said the veteran lock’s progress is ahead of schedule and everyone’s excited.
”Will he be playing in pool play? Don’t know. Is there a chance? Yes, there is,” Foster said. ”Have a bit of patience.”
Retallick said he’s not available for New Zealand’s next match against Canada on Oct. 2 in Oita. The All Blacks face have Namibia and Italy after that.
Foster said they have played a lot of rugby without Retallick, and are content with their three fit locks: Sam Whitelock has been getting through a mountain of work, Scott Barrett was doing the things Retallick usually did, and Patrick Tuipulotu had found his test legs this year.
”When Brodie’s there, he brings composure to our group, but his absence has given a massive opportunity, particularly for Scott and Patty, to grow up into that space,” Foster said. ”If we can get Brodie back playing 100%, we’re in a pretty good position.”
The All Blacks have plans for their remaining pool games, too, Foster added.
”We’ve got three more opportunities to hone our game and to get it to the point we need it to be at,” he said. We’ve got two opportunities against Canada and Namibia to really grow confidence in some parts of our game we’re still not quite right with.
”The World Cup is about living your standards daily. The minute we think we’ve had one good game, and we’ve made it, we’re going to get smacked. The only way we’re going to progress any further is if we keep trying to meet our own expectations on a daily basis. There’ll certainly be no loosening of the reins over the next 10 days.”
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