Rugby World Cup: All Blacks loose forward Ethan Blackadder thrown lifeline, as replacement for injured winger Emoni Narawa

Loose forward Ethan Blackadder will get a World Cup call-up after all, named as an injury replacement for All Blacks winger Emoni Narawa in France.

Blackadder, 28, is the son of former NZ captain Todd Blackadder and emerged as a strong selection candidate for the tournament, but has been dogged by injury himself over the past two seasons.

He logged nine tests, after debuting for the All Blacks against Tonga in 2021, but dislocated a shoulder during Super Rugby Pacific and could not pay internationally last year. 

A calf niggle kept him sidelined for most of this year's Crusaders campaign, before a quad complaint dashed his hopes of turning out for his country in the Rugby Championship. Hoping to push for World Cup inclusion through the National Provincial Championship, his return for Tasman was dashed by a recurrence of the calf tweak.

Ethan Blackadder in action for the All Blacks.
Ethan Blackadder in action for the All Blacks. Photo credit: Photosport

Blackadder finally turned out for the Mako last week and did enough to prove his readiness for the All Blacks, who have been dogged by injury through their build-up.

Veteran lock Brodie Retallick and flanker Shannon Frizell missed the final hitout against South African at Twickenham, and while Retallick made a surprise return in the opening defeat to France, the squad always seemed a little unbalanced, especially given the injury concerns among the forwards.

That predicament became more acute, when captain Sam Cane was a late withdrawal from the opener, forcing lock Tupou Vaa'i into an unfamiliar starting role as blindside flanker.

Coach Ian Foster has essentially acknowledged the need for another loose forward, instead of another like-for-like outside back replacement for Narawa.

Narawa has also nursed a back injury since his All Blacks debut against Argentina in July and was finally ruled out of World Cup contention last week.

"We've called Ethan in," confirmed Foster. "He should be here Monday afternoon.

"It's obviously disappointing with Emoni's back and with Sam Cane's back popping out over the last couple of days, we're just reinforcing the loos forward stocks, so Ethan's come in."

The first clue to Blackadder's inclusion came when he was withdrawn from Tasman's NPC encounter against Taranaki on Sunday. 

Foster admits it was a close call between him and Samipeni Finau, who impressed on debut against the Wallabies last month.

"We erred on the side of covering the 6-7 area, particularly with Sam's back, and even though we're confident that's not long term, having Ethan in gives us little bit of extra protection in that space."

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