New Zealand are likely to be without captain Kieran Read for their three-Test series with France, coach Steve Hansen has confirmed.
All Blacks skipper Read is yet to play in 2018, having undergone surgery on his back in December.
And Hansen, although unable to say for certain, does not expect to see the 32-year-old back in action in time for the opening match at Eden Park on June 9.
“I don’t think [Read] will be back until after the French series but that’s not a fait accompli at this point,” Hansen told Radio Sport on Thursday.
“We’ll just take our time and, as I said about a month ago, he knows his body and we can’t afford to come back too early and damage it again and miss another six months and maybe even miss the World Cup.
“We’ll just take it one day at a time and one week at a time.”
And Read is not the only doubt, with hooker Dane Coles also in a race to be fit following a ruptured knee ligament.
“Dane is having a few problems with his knee. He can’t seem to straighten it,” the coach added. “He’s gone back to the surgeon and the surgeon has put him back in a brace at night to try to help him get full extension.
“Once that happens, he’ll make progress pretty quickly. He is unlikely to be available for June.”
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