Rugby World Cup: Ethan Blackadder poised to end near 700-day wait for All Blacks return as Uruguay loom

Ethan Blackadder has been forced to be patient for opportunities in the black jersey, but that could be rewarded as early as Tuesday night, when the All Blacks name their side to face Uruguay at the Rugby World Cup.  

After an injury plagued two years, Blackadder hasn't played a test since the end of 2021, when he impressed in his first campaign for the All Blacks.

The 28-year-old was initially overlooked by coach Ian Foster for this year's World Cup in France, as injuries again limited his time on the field during Super Rugby.

But when Emoni Narawa's tournament was ended before it began, the door opened for Blackadder, as the All Blacks selectors replaced the winger with a loose forward after being physically dominated against France.

Ethan Blackadder.
Ethan Blackadder. Photo credit: Getty Images

And after acclimatising to France and being back in the All Blacks environment after close to two years out - with his last test coming against Ireland at the end of 2021 - squad rotation against Uruguay in Lyon on Friday (NZ time) could result in Blackadder's World Cup debut.

By the time the All Blacks take the field in Lyon, it would have been 691 days since Blackadder's last test.

And now closing in on a month since he played any rugby, Blackadder doesn't need any second invitation.

"I've been really enjoying it," said Blackadder. "I'm very hungry for game time, I haven't played for four weeks now.

"If I get an opportunity, I'm ready to roll.

Breaking into the All Blacks' ranks, though, might prove an ask, with his versatility as a loose forward potentially keeping Blackadder out of a starting spot.

In his absence, Shannon Frizell has gone from strength to strength at No.6, while captain Sam Cane and No.8 Ardie Savea are walk-up starters when fit.

Ethan Blackadder.
Ethan Blackadder. Photo credit: Photosport

But even with his sights locked on the blind side of the scrum, Blackadder is grateful for the competition his teammates provide.

"To be honest, I don't mind [where I play], but if I had to put my finger on one, it would be No.6," he added.

"At the moment, there's no injuries in the loose forwards. They can only have four in the 23, and they're all great blokes.

"We all help each other out, and want to put our best foot forward. But we're also great at helping each other."

After the All Blacks' squad selection gamble ultimately failed – seeing a loose forward replace an injured winger – Blackadder's arrival has coincidentally or otherwise resulted in an upturn in form.

Last Saturday's 96-17 win over Italy was the joint highest score recorded by a team at the World Cup so far. 

The All Blacks themselves credit intensity in training over a two-week period before facing the Azzurri, with players outside the matchday 23 doing their bit to keep the playing group on their toes.  

Among them has been Blackadder, with scrum coach Greg Feek saying his efforts in training have ultimately put him in the frame to face Uruguay.

"He arrived in later on, and took a couple of weeks to adjust," said Feek. "Suddenly, boom.

"He jumped in, had all this energy, he's a great team man. He provides a little bit of something different in terms of how he plays the game.

"He's strong on the ball, he's a big physical loose forward, and he's been testing the boys too.

"He's put his hand up, it'll depend on the [selection] mix a little bit. Since he's been in this week, he's done really well."

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