Rugby: All Blacks' hooker Nathan Harris ruled out of Rugby Championship

By Darren Walton

The All Blacks' hooker stocks are being stretched to the limit after Nathan Harris was ruled out of Saturday night's Rugby Championship showdown with the Wallabies with a season-ending knee injury.

In the latest setback to hit the world champions, Harris tore his ACL on Thursday, forcing coach Steve Hansen to back track and call up regular hooker Dane Coles on the bench.

Five-Test rookie Codie Taylor will start at ANZ Stadium, but Coles may well be called on despite Hansen on Thursday saying the 2015 World Cup winner was never going to be picked as he recovers from his own rib injury. Hansen said Coles had only travelled with the squad to Sydney to receive treatment after being hurt while leading the Hurricanes to their maiden Super Rugby title this month. But with Harris out, the coach had no alternative on Friday but to call on his first-choice rake.

"If something happened in the first minute (to Taylor), he (Coles) will get the 80, no problem," Hansen said at the All Blacks' captain's run.

"I mean, the reason we didn't play him was because of the type of injury he's got, they tend to niggle on.

"So we thought if we could give him an extra week he wouldn't have that problem. "But now we don't have that luxury so (we'll see) how he goes when the time comes."

Captain Kieran Read admitted the front-row upheaval was a "a little bit of a distraction late in the piece that you don't want".

"But a guy like Dane Coles, who's vastly experienced, comes onto the bench and Codie's had plenty of reps this week," he said.

"So things just roll on from that point of view."

Harris is the second touring All Black to suffer a knee injury this week after centre George Moala tore a medial ligament on Monday and was ruled out for at least the first two matches of the Rugby Championship - which both double as Bledisloe Cup outings.

Fellow centre Sonny Bill Williams sustained a tournament-ending Achilles tendon tear at the Rio Olympics last week, leaving the All Blacks midfield unusually light on experience.

- AAP

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