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WELLINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - Veteran All Blacks hooker Dane Coles has been cleared for selection for the season-opening test against the Wallabies, while midfielder Ngani Laumape has joined the squad in Wellington, the team said on Tuesday.
Coles was considered a doubt for Sunday’s Bledisloe Cup opener while recovering from a calf strain but coach Ian Foster said he had rejoined the group on Monday in “great shape”.
“So the signs are good for a full training week,” Foster told reporters.
Laumape comes in as an injury replacement for Braydon Ennor but is not expected to play in Wellington or the second Bledisloe Cup match in Auckland as he continues his recovery from a broken arm.
The Wellington Hurricane missed out on Steve Hansen’s World Cup squad in Japan last year and his 2020 season looked in jeopardy when he suffered the arm injury during the Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament in July.
“He’s not back to 100 (percent),” said Foster.
“He’s trending well but it’s a bone (injury) so the determination will be after he sees the specialist and the X-rays and see where we go from there.”
Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane are the midfield options for Sunday’s clash, but Laumape’s elevation could see him in the squad for the Rugby Championship in Australia next month.
The 27-year-old played the last of his 13 tests off the bench in August last year, a 36-0 thrashing of the Wallabies at Eden Park.
His midfield partner at the Hurricanes, Peter Umaga-Jensen, has also joined the All Blacks squad as injury cover.
Foster, who succeeded his former boss Hansen after the World Cup, said his first starting 15 was already decided but refused to divulge any of his selections.
“We’ve got a great blend in this team; a lot of experience and a lot of newness, so how we blend to generate some energy is going to be key,” he said.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing Peter Rutherford
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