Hooker Keven Mealamu won’t play rugby for the rest of the year after being ruled out for at least four months.
Mealamu ruptured a chest muscle in the 31-19 defeat to the Springboks last Saturday in Durban, which will sideline him for the rest of the All Blacks’ Tri-Nations campaign and their end-of-year tour.
All Blacks doctor Deb Robinson said the results were confirmed after Mealamu underwent an MRI scan in Auckland.
‘It’s incredibly disappointing for Keven,’ Robinson told stuff.co.nz, ‘but he is in a positive frame of mind and will undergo surgery on Friday.’
This leaves Andrew Hore as the clear first-choice hooker, opening the doors for Waikato’s Aled de Malmanche to play a role as his understudy.
Hawke’s Bay Hika Elliot will enter the frame as the third-choice No 2.
Meanwhile, several All Blacks players have been made available to play in the Air New Zealand Cup over the next two weeks. Assistant coach Wayne Smith has admitted this decision was made to help the players gain some form after disappointing performances against the Springboks.
Luke McAlister and Cory Jane (North Harbour), Tamati Ellison (Wellington), De Malmanche and Brendon Leonard (Waikato), Bryn Evans (Hawke’s Bay), John Afoa (Auckland) and Tanerau Latimer (Bay of Plenty) are all available this weekend.
Piri Weepu, Neemia Tialata and Rodney So’oialo (Wellington). Kieran Read (Canterbury) and Jason Eaton (Taranaki) will be made available for the third round.
The All Blacks squad will meet for a one-day training camp in Auckland next Wednesday. They will then assemble in Sydney on 16 August to prepare for their next Tri-Nations fixture against Australia in the Bledisloe Cup Test on 22 August.