Ireland have been dealt two major blows with halfback Conor Murray and midfielder Robbie Henshaw ruled out of this weekend's test against the All Blacks in Dublin.
Murray hasn't played since June due to a neck injury but, on arrival in Dublin, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen confidently predicted the world-class No 9 would make a shock return.
That hasn't come to fruition, with Ireland issuing a statement on Tuesday (NZT) saying Murray was accelerating through his recovery but will not join the squad this month.
Henshaw, the destructive second five-eighth who bulldozed his way over the line from a superbly worked scrum move in Ireland's historic win over the All Blacks in Chicago, pulled out late last week with a hamstring concern that has not healed in time.
With Murray and Henshaw out, Ireland are robbed of over 100 test caps. This news comes after they also lost 57-capped British and Irish Lions openside Sean O'Brien, who broke his arm against the Pumas last week.
Former Counties Manukau and Chiefs second-five Bundee Aki and Garry Ringrose are now favoured to team up in the Irish midfield but the latter sat out the Pumas test with a hip complaint suffered the previous week against Italy in Chicago.
Ulster's Will Addison is also in contention to partner Auckland-born Aki.
Ireland are, however, sweating on the fitness of Murray's replacement, Kieran Marmion, and Aki after both players rolled ankles in the second half of the 28-17 win over the Pumas.
In terms of Ireland's depleted stocks, All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty believes whoever comes through will pose threats.
"They've got class players right throughout their backline. They're playing some great code at the moment so whoever pulls on 12 and 13 the boys in our team up against them will have to prepare pretty diligently," Crotty said.
"It's awesome to see Bundee going so well over here I remember playing against him with the Crusaders against the Chiefs. He was a great player back then and he's just come on leaps and bounds. They've got Henshaw there as well who is an outstanding ball runner so it's a great challenge."