Dane Coles has now become a MAJOR doubt for the British and Irish Lions Tests, while Brodie Retallick has handed the All Blacks yet another injury scare.
Hooker Coles has been sidelined with concussion since March 18, and has now been ruled out of the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs on Friday night.
Chiefs lock Retallick will also miss the Wellington clash, having suffered a concussion concern of his own.
While Retallick’s coaches rate his absence as mainly precautionary, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen will still be anxious to keep him off an injury list already including Coles, Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith.
“It’s bad news for the All Blacks and bad news for all of New Zealand really,” said Hurricanes coach John Plumtree.
“He hasn’t been able to train hard enough at this stage. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be available for any of the Tests or the first Test.”
Retallick mixes tight-five grunt with auxiliary play-making duties, linking the All Blacks’ forwards and backs in unparalleled style – and Hansen will aim to capitalise on the peerless lock’s qualities when the Lions Test series opens on June 24.
“He took a knock, obviously, in the weekend, and he still had a headache yesterday, so not enough time to pass the protocols, so he’s out for the weekend,” said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
“He did pass the test and we could have put him back on, but we erred on the side of caution there, so I’m happy we did that.
“He said he’s not feeling too bad, but we’re not going to risk that.”
Ireland took full advantage of Retallick’s absence in their shock 40-29 victory over New Zealand in Chicago in November, with the potent lock sidelined for the Soldier Field clash.
Veteran back-rower Kaino was pressed into service at lock for that USA encounter, and Ireland hassled him off his stride as he struggled to offer the same kind of link play as Retallick.
The Lions would surely seek to mimic that tactic should New Zealand find themselves without their tight-five talisman come the Test matches.
Retallick’s injury issue only adds to New Zealand’s fitness worries, though number eight Read still expects to beat his thumb problem in time to face the Lions.
Blues loose-forward Kaino will miss Wednesday’s Lions clash at Eden Park and is now in a race against time to be ready for the Test series.
Centre Crotty suffered a rib cartilage injury at the weekend, while full-back Smith also picked up a concussion.