Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blake Gibson out for 7-8 weeks

Blake Gibson is set for a long spell on the sidelines. Photo / Getty
Blake Gibson is set for a long spell on the sidelines. Photo / Getty

Blues loose forward Blake Gibson, one of his team's best performing and most consistent players this season, faces a long stint out with a fractured thumb which could require surgery.

Gibson, who scored a stunning individual try when running over the top of All Blacks and Highlanders fullback Ben Smith in round one and has made the second highest number of tackles in the competition this season, is likely to be ruled out until after the June international break.

After missing most of Auckland's season last year with a knee problem, Gibson injured his thumb in tackle practice on Tuesday.

"I really feel for Blake," fellow flanker Jerome Kaino said. "He was improving with every game he played and he has a bright future. I spoke to him after he got the news. We're not too sure how long [he is going to be out] but he was quite disappointed. All we can do is try to support him, but he's got a lot of rugby left in him."

In a fortunate piece of timing revealed by the Herald this week, Tanerau Latimer, a like-for-like replacement, is in line to play his first game this season should he come through today's training without further reaction from his calf.

"He's chomping at the bit to get on the field and we're looking forward to seeing him take part for his experience and leadership," Kaino said of Latimer. "The way he plays is uncompromising so we're looking forward to that."

If passed fit for the match against the Sharks at Eden Park on Saturday, Latimer, a former Chiefs and Crusaders player, will be making his debut for the Blues after arriving from Japanese club rugby.

The Blues will make a final decision tomorrow.

Elsewhere, there is is a settled look to the Blues team that lost narrowly to the Chiefs in Hamilton last weekend.

Lolagi Visinia returns from injury to regain his place at fullback, with his kicking game considered important for this match. He will replace Melani Nanai, who scored a stunning solo try at Waikato stadium.

Counties Manukau back Piers Francis will again start outside Ihaia West in the midfield, with scans clearing him of any neck and spinal injury concerns after he was taken off the field on a stretcher last weekend.

The team will wear black armbands in recognition of the passing of former Blues lock Kurtis Haiu with a moment's silence before the start of the game.

The game is also the anniversary of the original Super 12 final in 1996 when the Blues beat the Natal Sharks, with a number of players attending and Joeli Vidiri to deliver the match ball on to the field.

Blues team to play the Sharks at Eden Park on Saturday:

Lolagi Visinia, Rieko Ioane, Rene Ranger, Piers Francis, Tevita Li, Ihaia West, Bryn Hall; Steven Luatua, Tanerau Latimer/Kara Pryor, Jerome Kaino, Josh Bekhuis, Hoani Matenga, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (c), Sam Prattley.

Reserves: Quentin MacDonald, Namatahi Waa, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Kara Pryor/Joe Edwards, Akira Ioane, Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, George Moala.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW
Stats provided by

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 28 Sep 2016 15:06:16 Processing Time: 542ms