Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks Josh Ioane no certainty to start in Richie Mo'unga's absence

The All Blacks may be forced to do without first-five Richie Mo'unga for their final World Cup warm-up game against Tonga on Saturday.

Mo'unga's shoulder injury suffered in the Bledisloe Cup rematch is still on the mend, and the selectors are unlikely to risk him so close to the big dance.

Highlanders pivot Josh Ioane was called into the squad as cover this week, but Mo'unga's potential absence doesn't necessarily equate to a Ioane start.

"[Ioane] has had three or four weeks with us during the Rugby Championship that our expectations are that he's got a really good handle of how things go," said assistant coach Ian Foster.

"There's positives if he does get a chance to get on there. But we don't think we tick boxes, we're making the best decisions that we can each week based on a test match. And just because someone's here doesn't guarantee them anything."

Ioane warmed the bench against Argentina in Buenos Aires but wasn't called upon, meaning a test debut looms in Hamilton. While Mo'unga took part at Tuesday's training, it was in a reduced capacity.

They may choose to give one of their World Cup back-up options a run, with Hansen having declared TJ Perenara, Jordie Barrett, or Ryan Crotty all capable of filling the number 10 jersey if required.

"If someone's here training hard and hasn't got a lot of game time, then the pressure's on them to learn in other ways. That's the value of putting so much pressure on our training week."

Also under an injury cloud is midfielder Jack Goodhue, who Foster says hasn't quite regained complete mobility, after the hamstring issue from the All Blacks Bledisloe opener in Perth.

But Ryan Crotty's resurgence for Canterbury last weekend should solve that problem, with the Crusaders veteran primed for a run on the test stage.

The All Blacks will announce their side first-thing Thursday morning.


Join us for live updates of the All Blacks v Tonga from 2pm Saturday