WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick was sweating on his fitness for the Rugby World Cup until a couple of days before making the squad but is now more confident his shoulder injury will clear up in time for him to make some contribution in Japan.
The former World Player of the Year dislocated the shoulder in the draw with South Africa on July 27 and was mighty relieved to hear his name read out by New Zealand Rugby chairman Brent Impey at the squad announcement on Wednesday.
“Up until probably five or six days ago I wasn’t that hopeful,” the 28-year-old told New Zealand’s Radio Sport. “The one real thing that’s holding it up is that I did a bit of nerve damage when the shoulder dislocated.
“A couple of fingers were numb and a deltoid (shoulder muscle) wasn’t working that well.
“The shoulder itself is getting stronger but being without that function was a concern. I’m starting to get that feeling back now so hopefully it keeps progressing.”
Coach Steve Hansen said on Wednesday Retallick had been selected with the expectation he would probably need to sit out the entire pool phase and target a comeback for the quarter-finals on Oct. 19-20.
The injury forced Hansen to select four locks for the tournament, with Patrick Tuipulotu joining Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Scott Barrett.
“I knew that they had been thinking about taking four locks and giving me a chance to come right but I wasn’t sure,” Retallick added.
“I’ve made a fair amount of progress over the last four or five days and if it keeps progressing then hopefully come four or five weeks’ time I should be able to play again.
“I’ve just started running this week and have done more strengthening of the shoulder. I’m pretty confident I could do some skill work with the ball, catch and pass, but obviously we’re a wee way out from playing so we’re not rushing it.”
Retallick said he hoped to be fit enough for consideration for the All Blacks later pool matches.
The three-times world champions face the Springboks in their Pool B opener on Sept. 21 then meet Canada on Oct. 2, Namibia on Oct. 6 and Italy on Oct. 12.
“Ideally it would be good if I could get a run towards the end of pool play,” Retallick said.
“A quarter-final will obviously be a high-pressure game so to get a bit of confidence would be nice but we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)