Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Pat McKendry: Injuries to Read and Kaino will test All Blacks' depth

New Zealand All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
New Zealand All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Kieran Read's broken thumb, combined with Jerome Kaino's knee injury, means the All Blacks' loose forward stocks are going to be tested before the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

Read has been cleared by All Blacks management to have surgery in South Africa after his injury suffered in this morning's 48-21 victory by the Crusaders over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, and he is likely to be out for six weeks at least.

The first test between the All Blacks and Lions at Eden Park is in eight weeks' time on June 24.

Coach Steve Hansen will be confident his wider squad have the depth to cover for most eventualities, but any more injuries to his loose forward contenders will leave him concerned.

Kaino was due to have surgery on a knee issue last Friday and will be out for between four and six weeks.

As it stands, Sam Cane will be favourite to start at openside flanker, with Ardie Savea, Steven Luatua and Liam Squire in the mix for the other two starting loose forward positions.

Read's leadership will be seen as crucial for the opening test, one likely to be played amid a feverish atmosphere thanks to the thousands of travelling Lions fans.

Fullback Ben Smith is the All Blacks' vice-captain, but he has injury issues of his own, having sprained an ankle during the Highlanders' victory over the Stormers in Dunedin and missing the southerners' two-match tour of South Africa.

Smith's teammate, loose forward Elliot Dixon, a man also in the All Blacks' mix, was named to start the match against the Stormers, but was hospitalised with a knee infection.

Crusader Matt Todd, who played his 100th Super Rugby match this morning in Bloemfontein, will be in the reckoning for the All Blacks, but is an out and out No7 rather than a No8 or blindside flanker.

If Hansen is short of a captain he could do worse than turn to lock Sam Whitelock, who has led the Crusaders brilliantly this season, although Whitelock was guilty of poor decision making this morning when being sinbinned for the final 10 minutes of the Cheetahs match for using a retaliatory elbow on an opponent.

- NZ Herald

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