Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Jane a big loss for Hansen

Hurricane star's knee injury will make All Blacks coach thankful for Kahui's improvement.

Cory Jane's ruptured ACL ligament needs surgery. Photo /  Getty Images
Cory Jane's ruptured ACL ligament needs surgery. Photo / Getty Images

No Zac Guildford and now, probably, no Cory Jane until the end of the year. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will be thankful Richard Kahui's comeback is gathering pace.

Hansen had plenty of wing options last year, but Guildford's latest alcohol-related incident, which has forced him out of the game for a year, and Jane's knee injury - a ruptured ACL ligament which his Hurricanes franchise say requires surgery - will present new challenges.

Jane's rehabilitation could take up to eight or nine months. A Hurricanes spokeswoman said the franchise was waiting to hear how long Jane, who was unavailable for comment, was likely to be out of the game. She said it was too early to say who would replace him at the franchise.

It is likely that Jane will miss not only the Hurricanes season and three June tests against France, but also the Rugby Championship in August and September, which NZ won last year.

Julian Savea's steady progression, and noticeable lift on the end-of-year European tour in which he overtook Hosea Gear as the All Blacks' best left wing, will be a boost for Hansen, but Jane will be a big loss.

The 29-year-old, who has played 41 tests, scored seven tries last year, including three against Argentina in the All Blacks' Rugby Championship win in Buenos Aires in September. His reliability on the right wing and uncanny knack of scoring tries make him a huge asset for Hansen.

A serious ankle sprain suffered while playing for the Hurricanes kept Jane out of the three home tests against Ireland last year, with Guildford playing in his place.

In a blog on his Twitter account, Jane acknowledged the extent of his injury. "I've got hard work ahead of me to get back on the field but I WILL BE BACK," he wrote.

Kahui has played no rugby since May last year when he dislocated a shoulder playing against the Reds in Brisbane. He wasn't involved in his team's 36-14 victory over the Highlanders in Taupo on Saturday but remains on track to have a hit-out soon - possibly against the Hurricanes in Mangatainoka on February 16. After several shoulder injuries, the 27-year-old, who is in contact training, is right to be wary.

With Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu automatic midfield selections, Hansen would have played the quick and defensively sound Kahui on the left wing last year. Hansen's other option there was Highlanders utility Ben Smith.

The losses of Guildford and Jane mean Rene Ranger, who now has a senior role at the Blues, could come into consideration to make a return to the black jersey. Tim Nanai-Williams at the Chiefs could also fancy his chances of stepping up.

But although Hansen has time on his side, Mark Hammett and Todd Blackadder, the respective coaches of the Hurricanes and Crusaders, do not.

Hammett has Savea at the Hurricanes - his other options are the vastly less experienced Alapati Leiua, Matt Proctor and Richard Buckman.

Blackadder has lost not only Guildford but also his probable replacement Kurt Baker, at least in the short term, after the New Zealand sevens player pulled a hamstring in Wellington at the weekend.

In the meantime, wing Sean Maitland, one of Blackadder's former charges who is now playing for the Glasgow Warriors, made a big impact in his first international when scoring for Scotland in his team's Six Nations defeat by England. The loss of the quick and powerful Maitland could be keenly felt at the Crusaders, if not New Zealand rugby.

Inside track

Rene Ranger (Blues): Played three tests in 2010. Considered a centre by Sir John Kirwan but could still play on wing for Blues this season.

Richard Kahui (Chiefs): An All Black recovering from shoulder surgery, Kahui is a shoo-in to make squad this year if fit.

Lelia Masaga (Chiefs): Has played one test for the All Blacks - against Italy in 2009. Quick, but has fallen down the Chiefs' pecking order.

Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Chiefs): Fiji-born Tikoirotuma would be one of the fastest in this line-up. Made his Super Rugby debut last year, so short of experience.

Tim Nanai-Williams (Chiefs): Has pace and X-factor. At about 90kg is a little on the small side.

Hosea Gear (Highlanders): Last year was his big chance but ceded ground to Julian Savea.

Ben Smith (Highlanders): Consistent and able to comfortably cover fullback. Solid if a little unspectacular.

Julian Savea (Hurricanes): All Blacks' best wing in the absence of Jane. Was brilliant at times in his debut All Blacks year.

Andre Taylor (Hurricanes): More of a fullback now. Pushed close for inclusion in All Blacks squad last year.

- APNZ

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