All Blacks v France: Midfield kingpin Anton Lienert-Brown ruled out of final northern test with dislocated shoulder

The All Blacks will battle more than just French passion next weekend, as they face a mounting injury toll, after a gruelling three months on the road.

Coach Ian Foster has confirmed that starting midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown is unavailable for the test against France, after partially dislocating his shoulder in the 29-20 loss to Ireland.

The availability of influential playmaker Beauden Barrett is also in question, with the 101-test veteran recovering from a head knock that forced him from the field midway through the first half at Dublin.

Foster faces a dilemma over who will replace two of his in-form players in the final test of 2021, with options thin on the ground.

Crusaders first-five Richie Mo'unga is the obvious choice to wear the No.10 jersey but he has struggled since returning to the squad for the northern tour.

Mo'unga was barely sighted in the loss to Ireland and was far from his best in the stuttering win over Italy a week before.

In the midfield, Foster could lean on David Havili, who was excellent early this season, but whose form has tapered off with below-par outings over the past two weeks.

Havili replaced Lienert-Brown late in the first half against the Irish and found himself hounded with ball in hand, recording negative metres on six ball carries, while also missing a game-high three tackles.

Another option is rookie Quinn Tupaea, who has looked every part an All Black in his limited gametime this season.

Foster is confident he will find the right mix for a bruising test against the combative French.

"I'm comfortable with the options," Foster says. "We've been able to get through this tour really well from an injury perspective, so it was disappointing to lose two players within that first half in the backs, but that's life, that's test match rugby.

"Part of our job from a squad size is we've been able to build people and give opportunities, so that when it's their turn to step up, they know a little bit about it.

"Whoever gets in that midfield this weekend, they'll be prepared and ready to go."

All Blacks v France: Midfield kingpin Anton Lienert-Brown ruled out of final northern test with dislocated shoulder
Photo credit: Getty Images

Foster is keen to put the Irish loss behind the squad, as they build into their 15th test of the year, describing Sunday's result as a "lesson in northern hemisphere rugby".

But despite just 33 percent possession, the All Blacks went close to breaking Irish hearts again, with a 71st-minute try by Akira Ioane ruled out for a forward pass.

A conversion could have put the All Blacks up by one, but after a four-minute deliberation between onfield referee Luke Pearce and his television match official, Rieko Ioane's pass was ruled to have travelled forward out of the hand.

Both sides were denied tries by the TMO and while Foster agrees both decisions were arguably right, he would like to see the process sped up and the referee given more influence.

"The actual process is taking too long, but I have no issues in terms of the extra set of eyes looking at those moments.

"Last night was a classic case. The referee missed their guy making double, triple movements on the ground that we saw pretty clearly from up in the box. The TMO saw that and that was the right decision. 

"The one that was ruled as a forward pass - the referee didn't think it was forward.

"I guess the one thing I would like to see is the TMO has to clearly prove that the referee's initial opinion wasn't right.

"If the TMO believes he is right, they tend to elongate the conversation and almost persuade the referee away from their initial instinct.

"I'd still like to see referees trust their initial gut feel once he has the initial views."

Join us at 9am Sunday for the final All Blacks test of 2021 against France.