Wellington - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen trusts his New Zealand squad has plenty of strength in depth to absorb the late loss of skipper Richie McCaw to a calf injury ahead of the Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia on Saturday.
Flank McCaw and wing Cory Jane, who was due to make his return to the All Blacks following a serious knee injury earlier this year, were both late withdrawals on Friday from the third and final match of the series at Otago Regional Stadium.
Sam Cane, who started five previous Tests this season in McCaw's absence, will come off the bench to take the flank's place, while Charles Piutau will start on the wing in Dunedin with number eight Kieran Read taking over the captaincy.
The All Blacks have already retained the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy for an 11th successive season after beating the Wallabies in their opening two clashes of the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship.
"At the end of the day, we weren't prepared to risk it and have him miss the end of year tour," Hansen said on Friday about the decision to withdraw McCaw from the team. "We could have played him but the risk and reward wasn't worth it.
"We have got to the situation now where it's business as usual. If someone gets injured then the expectation is that everyone has been preparing to play anyway and people come in.
"There is a lot of trust with each other."
Cane was earmarked by Hansen last year as McCaw's successor, though the 21-year-old struggled to stamp his authority on games or indicate he was adjusting to the Test level.
His performances this season, however, have been widely praised by the All Blacks management and the decision to not risk McCaw for the 'dead rubber' was testament to the belief Cane was developing the way selectors had hoped.
"Sam Cane has definitely put his hand up and Reado is comfortable in the captaincy shoes," Hansen added. "We have done a lot of miles without Richie now.
"While it's great to have him there it's also great opportunity for Sam and for Kieran to lead.
Hansen said Jane had a "grade one hamstring" injury and was now also out of consideration for the November 2 clash against Japan in Tokyo, though was likely to be available for the match against France in Paris a week later.
"He's obviously really disappointed, that's understandable," Hansen said of Jane's late injury issue after he returned to the side following an eight-month layoff after knee surgery to fix ruptured knee ligaments.
Without a direct replacement on the bench, Piutau was drafted straight into the starting line-up while Steven Luatua was added to the list of replacements to fill the gap left by Cane's promotion.
Wallabies captain James Horwill recognised that losing someone of McCaw's experience was a blow for the All Blacks though he did not expect any drop in intensity.
"Obviously anyone who has played 120 Tests leaves a big hole to fill but Sam Cane is an excellent player, has been playing well and I don't think they will lose too much," Horwill told reporters in Dunedin.
"I don't feel it's too much of a shock or makes too much of a difference to them. I think they are quite used to it from this year anyway."