Dan Carter’s absence from the opening games of this year’s Rugby Championship poses some interesting questions of title-holders New Zealand.
However, Ladbrokes remain undeterred by the prospect of a possible upset and have the All Blacks at 2/7 to retain the inaugural crown they won last year.
New Zealand were already having to get used to the idea of life without the fragile Carter, at least on a short-term basis.
The world’s leading Test rugby point-scorer had already announced he was going to take a six-month sabbatical following his country’s northern hemisphere tour.
And because of a reoccurrence of a calf injury his planned break before the 2015 Rugby World Cup has been put forward, potentially affording deputy playmaker Aaron Cruden the chance to shine.
The Chiefs fly-half performed well with the boot during the Kiwi’s first two recent Tests against France as the world champions steamrollered the opposition by an aggregate score of 54-9 in those contests.
Carter’s absence for New Zealand’s upcoming Bledisloe Cup contests against Australia is undoubtedly a blow.
But with Cruden a possible replacement there is unlikely to be too much greater uncertainty generated.
New Zealand dominated this event last year by winning all six of their matches, including both of their ties against Australia.
The All Blacks are 4/9 to register a fifth win in their last seven games against the Wallabies.
And Cruden’s emergence for both the Super 15-winning Chiefs and his country has ensured that any impact felt by Carter’s absence will be minimal.
Australia can be backed at 7/1 for outright Rugby Championship glory and 7/4 to secure victory against New Zealand in their opening round match-up.
But with the hosts failing to win a trans-Tasman series in the last 10 years their next encounter could prove to be another chastening experience, regardless of Dan Carter’s participation.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.