Rugby World Cup: David Havili eyes All Blacks comeback opportunity after Jordie Barrett injury

While one door appears to be closing on Jordie Barrett and his chances of featuring for the All Blacks' World Cup kickoff against France, another could be opening for midfield colleague David Havili.

In the latest injury blow to the All Blacks, Barrett has spent the last two training sessions on the sidelines at Lyon, casting doubt over his availability for their mouthwatering clash with the hosts at Paris.

That could see Havili, 28, thrust back into the furnace under the brightest of lights, after a lengthy injury layoff.

In June, he was ruled out of the Crusaders run to the Super Rugby Paficic title with a hamstring injury. He returned to the field for his Tasman Mako in the NPC in early August, playing 40 minutes in his first taste of onfield action.

Given that half of rugby is all Havili has seen in the past three months, Ian Foster and his fellow selectors are unlikely to risk starting him, given the inevitable rust they'd probably prefer to shake off against the likes of Namibia and Uruguay, with Anton Lienert-Brown shaping as the most obvious replacement.

David Havili's Super Riugby campaign as cut short by injury.
David Havili's Super Riugby campaign as cut short by injury. Photo credit: Getty Images

Nevertheless, Havili insists he'll be ready, if the call should come his way, salivating at the prospect of such a golden opportunity to make an impression.

"I've had a bit of a tough run over the last couple of years," Havili conceded. "I'm just really grateful to be in this environment and give everything I can to this team.

"Over the last couple of weeks, it's sunk in that, God, I'll potentially get the opportunity to play this weekend, so I am just preparing to play, and if I get that opportunity, the smile on my face will be huge."

The All Blacks will already be without starters Brodie Retallick (knee), Tyrel Lomax (leg) and Shannon Frizell (hamstring) against 'Les Bleus', and the latest development with Barrett will only amplify the level of concern.

While he was one of many All Blacks to struggle against the Springboks in their final warm-up at Twickenham, Barrett has consistently been one of their best through 2023, making the second-five position his own, after years as a utility nomad.

Havili admits Barrett's potential absence at the Stade de France would be keenly felt.

"It would be huge," he said. "He's a competitor, he's going to do everything he can to get out on the field.

"He's got a bit of a niggle, but the competitor that he is, he'll try and be out there for this team, and we hope he is."

Havili's form throughout Super Rugby Pacific suggested he may be back to his best, after a torrid run of injuries, including a shoulder issue that limited his impact in the early stages of their campaign.

Refusing to feel sorry for himself, he's diligently worked through this rehabilitation and insists there will be no signs of cobwebs, if he's asked to step up to the plate this weekend.

"It's pretty much the same," said Havili, on the impact of Barrett's injury on his preparations.

"Everyone is preparing to play, things like this can happen. Injuries can come out of nowhere.

"It's a full team thing - when you are called upon, you are ready to go."

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