Of all the various injury concerns mounting for the All Blacks, the only one likely to be causing coach Steve Hansen any lingering concern is Dane Coles who hasn't played since March 18.

The feisty hooker is a possibility to play this Friday against the Stormers, but he's been a possibility to play for the past few weeks.

And the uncertainty about whether he will play is because he is trying to overcome a calf injury that is proving a little stubborn.

The nature of the injury is such that Coles has to carefully increase his training and then see how he reacts. Each time he pushes, though, his calf is reacting badly and each week is proving frustrating.


It will come right but the question is when and Hansen will be happier all around once he sees Coles back on a rugby field. A six-week layoff for a tight forward is far from ideal and while Coles has been on the bike in the gym, it will take him a few weeks to get himself game fit.

Codie Taylor is a high quality, perhaps under-rated understudy to Coles, but the All Blacks don't have an experienced or proven third choice hooker to slot straight in which is why the anxiety will remain for as long as Coles is on the sidelines.

Most of the other All Blacks' walking wounded are likely to come right in time ahead of the first test with the Lions.

Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino, who have respectively had surgery on their thumb and knee, are veteran athletes with the experience and conditioning to play test football straight after a layoff.

There is a quiet confidence that Read should be ready to play Samoa on June 16 and is even an outside bet to be ready to play for the Crusaders against the Lions on June 10. Kaino is probably going to take longer to come right but he is still expected to be available to play at Eden Park in the first test.

Should his recovery drift, however, Hansen knows he has two good, alternate options in Steven Luatua and Liam Squire.

The former is off to play for Bristol in August on a two-year deal, but All Blacks selector Grant Fox told Radio Sport that players' longer term intentions won't be a selection factor against the Lions.

"We've never penalised guys who have gone overseas at the end of a season," Fox said.

"Our job is to pick the best team we think can take on the next opposition. That will not change at all. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, we do what we need to win.

"Where it becomes tougher is if you toss the coin between two guys, and one is staying and one is going and we can't separate them across the skill level. Then clearly, we would favour the guy staying, but I can't remember an instance of that in the last five years."

Israel Dagg is expected back in two weeks and will have a few weeks to find his sharpness. Ben Smith is clearly being cautious with a light ankle sprain and should be passed fit to play against the Western Force in mid-May.

The prognosis for Nehe Milner-Skudder remains less optimistic with his broken foot still not healing. He's a player who offers a genuine point of difference when he's fit, but the All Blacks won't feel they need to rush him back to play the Lions as they have ample choice in their back three as it is.