Rugby World Cup: Standout All Blacks flanker Shannon Frizell likely to miss start of tournament due to injury

The All Blacks will likely be without flanker Shannon Frizell for the start of their Rugby World Cup campaign in France.

As the squad prepares to board their flight to the UK, coach Ian Foster has confirmed the barnstorming blindside tweaked his hamstring during All Blacks speed training earlier this week.

He estimated Frizell's recovery would be on a "similar timeframe" to lock Brodie Retallick, who has been ruled out of the warm-up game against South Africa at Twickenham next weekend and is considered unlikely for the World Cup opener against France on September 9 (NZ time).

Retallick sustained a knee injury in the final Bledisloe Cup test against Australia at Dunedin. Foster described the veteran's rehabilitation as "progressing really well".

Frizell has been a revelation through the All Blacks' unbeaten 2023 campaign, laying claim to the black No.6 jersey with standout performances, most notably a dominant outing against the Springboks at Hamilton last month.

Brodie Retallick is treated for injury during the Dunedin test against the Springboks.
Brodie Retallick is treated for injury during the Dunedin test against the Springboks. Photo credit: Getty Images

With Josh Lord and Samipeni Finau - who shined in his test debut during Bledisloe II - on standby in London, Foster insists the squad has sufficient depth to cover both absences for the 'Boks test, at which point they'll reassess their options for the tournament opener at Paris.

Luke Jacobson or Dalton Papali'i looms as likely replacements for Frizell, if he was deemed unavailable to face France. No shortage of candidates exist to replace Retallick, with Scott Barrett on hand to pack down with Crusaders teammate Sam Whitelock.

Otherwise, Foster insists the remaining 31 players boarding the flight from Auckand are fit and raring to go for a challenge that has been a long time coming. He left some of his leadership group with a poignant parting message in their final meeting this week, designed to put the task ahead into perspective.

"I wrote a number up on our whiteboard for some of our leaders and it was 'one out of seven' - that's how many World Cups we've won away from home," Foster explained. "Just a reminder of the size of the challenge going to a country that's passionate about winning and in great form.

"We know that the challenge is going to be huge, but this is exactly where we want to be."

Two of the All Blacks' World Cup triumphs - 1987 and 2011 - were in New Zealand, with the 2015 tournament in England their only success abroad.

After indifferent 2022 form had the All Blacks pegged as fringe contenders for the Cup, impressive displays through four tests this year have seen them rocket up the list of bookies' favourites.

Foster believes those expectations are justified and has complete confidence they have a world champion-calibre squad that's battle-hardened and primed to bring back the William Webb Ellis Trophy back to Aotearoa.

"It's a well tested group," he noted. "It's a group that I think has gone through a lot of adversity. 

"In the past, we've gone into World Cups feeling that where we'll get tested on adversity is at the World Cup and I think winning one of out seven World Cup away reflects that.

"We have to be confident that we've gone through adversity. This group has stayed tight.

"They've figured it out and found solutions, and are really growing in confidence as to how they lead themselves on the park and how they play.

"We've prepared as well as we can."