Rugby: Injuries add to the Blues problems as Crusaders loom

By Chris Allen

Francis Saili at the Blues training. Photo / Richard Robinson
Francis Saili at the Blues training. Photo / Richard Robinson

Two on the Blues' skimpy best list will miss the Crusaders' match and probably the side's trip to Africa.

Midfield back Francis Saili is a definite scratching after scans showed problems with his foot while skipper Luke Braid is also in a moonboot because of an ankle problem.

Braid had trouble with ankle injuries last season and suffered further damage late in the loss to the Highlanders. He appeared in most of the top line data about performance on a night when the Blues and rugby only coincided after halftime.

The captain and Saili were in a small group who delivered standards which fit the ideals the Blues preach about work as a professional rugby player. The disconnect in the shabby 29-21 defeat was alarming.

Braid gave a workaholic performance and Saili was more energetic than most.

His energy will be missed and it is doubtful All Black Ma'a Nonu will replace him for the two-game tour in Africa against the Bulls and Lions.

Nonu had off-season surgery on his ankle and has only recently resumed running. There was no point in trying to fast-track him.

"If you are injured, you're injured. We need him back when he is 100 per cent fit and he has only just started training," said Kirwan.

Another squad member, former All Black loose forward Jerome Kaino, returns from his Japanese contract this week after his side was knocked out of the playoffs but he will be given time at home to prepare for work when the Blues return from Africa.

Finding some united venom is essential for the Blues as they look to repair their flimsy start to the season.

They will face a much more intense challenge from the Crusaders on Friday when the former champs come looking for some reward after their opening defeat.

That invasion may be without Braid's rival captain and openside Richie McCaw.

He has a calf problem and did not run yesterday but the Crusaders have a strong replacement with Matt Todd showing out in his opening cameo.

Both sides have midfield concerns with Saili and Nonu gone for the Blues while the Crusaders' international Ryan Crotty is favouring a tender calf muscle.

The Blues also had blindsider Steven Luatua and lock Patrick Tuipulotu guarding ankle sprains but they are not in doubt for round two.

Several more All Blacks will return to action at Eden Park with front rowers Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu ready to be involved for the Blues while juggernaut No 8 Kieran Read will be with the Crusaders.

- NZ Herald

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