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Injuries strike three All Blacks veterans

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/04/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Kieran Read's broken thumb will add uncertainty and anxiety to the All Blacks build-up to the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

All Blacks skipper Read is the third key player to succumb to injury this week, suddenly installing worry lines to the brow of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Less than eight weeks out from the first Test, 97-Test No.8 Read has undergone surgery on a thumb fractured while playing for the Crusaders against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Even if he is fit for the June 24 opener at Eden Park, he will have barely played in 2017.

Off-season wrist surgery meant the 31-year-old sat out nearly five months before returning to rugby this month.

Hansen's other major concern is also in the loose forwards, where Jerome Kaino underwent a knee operation this week.

His forecast recuperation time is also about six weeks, meaning the tough blindside flanker will have limited miles on the clock before facing the Lions.

Hansen will hope 34-year-old Kaino and Read - who boast 174 Tests between them - can prove their fitness in at least one Super Rugby match each.

Other opportunities may come when both the Blues and the Crusaders face the Lions in early tour matches.

A third opportunity could be a "warm-up" Test against Samoa which is likely to soon be confirmed for Auckland on June 16.

Another veteran under a cloud is world class fullback Ben Smith, who isn't travelling with the Highlanders on Sunday for their two-match trip to South Africa.

Smith will miss games against the Cheetahs and Bulls because of an ankle complaint.

The 60-Test back, who was All Blacks vice captain last year, is one contender to lead the side if Read fails to recover.

Other possible skippers would be flanker Sam Cane, who led New Zealand in a group match at the 2015 World Cup, and the veteran lock Sam Whitelock, who has captained the Crusaders in an unbeaten start to their Super Rugby campaign.

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