TOKYO (Reuters) – All Blacks fullback Beauden Barrett has been carrying a leg injury that hampered his first two World Cup matches but he is getting back to full speed, the New Zealand Herald reported on Monday.
The two-times World Player of the Year would not specify what was bothering him, but said it did prevent him from running at full pace.
“I’ve been battling with a lower leg issue, a bit of a niggle, for a month now,” Barrett told the Herald. “Its been a frustration but it’s starting to feel really good.
“I’m quite positive about it but its been frustrating at times where I’d like to open up and its been hindering that.”
The lightning quick Barrett has been playing fullback at the tournament in a dual playmaker role with flyhalf Richie Mo’unga.
The All Blacks face Italy in their final Pool B match in Toyota City on Saturday, with coach Steve Hansen expected to name a full-strength side as they prepare for the quarter-finals.
The team still have plenty to work on, Hansen said, after players revealed he had given the team a dressing down at halftime of Sunday’s 71-9 victory over Namibia.
The Africans were in the match until about the 30-minute mark and Hansen said on Monday it was a timely reminder that they could not switch off mentally against any opposition.
“One of the hardest things to do in sport is get yourself to that mental state where you can perform to the highest level all the time,” he said.
“Namibia pointed a few things out to us in the first half and we rectified it. We’ve got one game plus one, and that’s all that’s guaranteed. We’ve got to be the best we can over those two games if we want to stay in the tournament. And we’re looking no further than that.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Hamamatsu, Japan; Editing by Ed Osmond)