Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Faumuina follows teammates with calf trouble

The Blues have suffered all season and now the curse of the calf is striking their front row.

The latest casualty is new All Black tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina, who is on crutches with his left calf bandaged and no chance of playing in the June internationals against Ireland.

His ill-fortune follows the front row fates which first claimed captain and hooker Keven Mealamu with calf problems before loosehead prop Tony Woodcock followed him to the medical room with a similar injury.

Mealamu is still unfit for this weekend's meeting with the Crusaders, perhaps a starter the following round; Woodcock will turn out after having 50 minutes in his return to the side while Faumuina starts his rehab.

"It is a grade two so it is about four to six weeks and a bit disappointing, I guess," the tighthead said. He hopes to stay with the All Black squad after attending several camps but does not expect to return to action until the Blues play the Force on July 7.

Faumuina has no history of any calf trouble but caught his leg awkwardly as a Blues scrum went into reverse and damaged the muscle.

"It felt like someone kicked me then I got up and couldn't stand on it," he recalled. "It was just unfortunate."

He never fretted that the Blues' poor season would count against his chances of replacing former teammate John Afoa when new All Black coach Steve Hansen revealed his first squad for the season.

"I am really pleased that the All Black selectors have still recognised him and he will still go to those camps and do a lot of learning," Blues coach Pat Lam said. "He will be part of the learning process and the way they build that environment, which is fantastic reward for where he has come from and the work that he's done."

Lam was not surprised that Ma'a Nonu and Piri Weepu had been picked as they were World Cup winners and proven test players who would cope with the demands of rugby at that level. The test squad seemed a strong blend of proven All Blacks mixed with a cluster of last season's successful NZ Colts side.

Some had not played much Super rugby but former Blues wing Joe Rokocoko had been one who had short-circuited the selection route as well.

Losing players to two three-day All Black camps in a fortnight was a challenge for teams but those plans had been signposted for some time.

"When they come back in on the Wednesdays it is about getting clarity and at this stage of the season so much has already been done and everyone is across it when they get back," said Lam. "These camps are about planning and clarity rather than doing a lot of hard work."

The Blues' next task was gearing up for the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday who would be smarting after their defeat to the Rebels at the weekend. But as Lam pointed out, winning in Melbourne was not automatic as his team discovered this season.

"Now we will go down to Christchurch and I imagine it will be a real dogfight down there."

- NZ Herald

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