Scott Barrett free to play All Blacks' World Cup opener


Scott Barrett has been cleared to play in the All Blacks' Rugby World Cup opener despite his high and late hit in New Zealand's tournament warm-up clash against South Africa.

The All Blacks suffered their worst-ever defeat in the match, a 35-7 loss at Twickenham in London, to leave them with plenty of concerns heading into the World Cup.

The availability of Barrett - a starting lock and a key cog in Ian Foster's machine - won't be one of them after an independent judiciary cleared him of serious foul play.

The 29-year-old was shown two yellow cards in the loss, the first for a minor infringement at the breakdown with the team on a warning for repeated fouls.

The second was far nastier, with Barrett barrelling into Springboks hooker Malcolm Marks at a ruck without intent to play the ball.

Barrett was disconsolate as he was sent off, leaving his team a man down for the entire second half against South Africa.

However, the judiciary convened by World Rugby deemed that punishment was sufficient, given the low grade offence for his first yellow card.

The news is a huge relief for New Zealand, who have their toughest pool fixture first-up: a clash with hosts France on the tournament's opening night.

Foster named just four locks in his squad, including Brodie Retallick who is not expected to be fit until mid-tournament.

The All Blacks complete their group with matches against easier opponents Namibia, Italy and Uruguay.

Suspensions have blighted England's World Cup preparation, who will miss captain Owen Farrell for their first two games against Argentina and Japan, and Billy Vunipola for the opener.