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Kaino tears meniscus, out for six weeks

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 26/04/2017

All Blacks blindside Jerome Kaino will head into the British and Irish Lions series a tad underdone after being ruled out of Super Rugby for up to six weeks with a knee injury.

The 77-Test stalwart will undergo surgery on Friday for a small meniscus tear and isn't expected to return for the Blues until early June.

Having suffered the tear in last fortnight's loss to the Hurricanes, Kaino could have played through the pain barrier but felt his knee seizing up on occasion and decided to go under the knife.

That will give Kaino one or possibly two top-flight matches to prove his fitness before the first Test against the Lions in Auckland on June 24.

He could return in time for the Blues' match against the Reds in Apia on June 2, or in the side's match against the tourists on June 7 in Auckland.

The 34-year-old may also get a run out in the All Blacks' warm-up Test against Samoa, scheduled a week before the first Lions Test.

"It's just about going in and having a bit of a tidy up," Blues assistant coach Steve Jackson told reporters.

"He'll get his feet up and normally you can come back pretty quickly from those sorts of operations."

Barring a two-year stint in Japanese rugby, Kaino has been a near-permanent presence in the All Blacks' loose forward trio since breaking into first-team contention in 2008.

While Jackson expected his co-captain to be fit and firing by June 24, he admitted Kaino's experience and physicality would be a loss for any outfit - especially his own, with a near-perfect run-in required for the Blues to make the finals.

That will begin on Sunday against the Brumbies in Canberra, where Akira Ioane will return to the starting line-up at No.8 and Steven Luatua shift to blindside.

The dynamic Ioane has made six successive bench appearances after modest efforts when starting the first two games of the season.

Jackson demanded Ioane play a protagonist's role in the Australian capital.

"There's a lot of promise around him and I think you see glimpses when he enters the field when teams are tiring," Jackson said.

"The challenge for him is consistently performing over 80 minutes."

Elsewhere, George Moala returns to the midfield alongside Sonny Bill Williams, with Rieko Ioane moving to the left wing.

Taranaki's Leighton Price, who joined the squad this week due to injury among the Blues locks, features among the reserves.

All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu, as well as Ihaia West and Rene Ranger, remain crocked with back and ankle injuries.

Blues: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, George Moala, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Piers Francis, Augustine Pulu, Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson, Steven Luatua, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (capt), Pauliasi Manu. Reserves: Matt Moulds, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sione Mafileo, Leighton Price, Murphy Taramai, Billy Guyton, Bryn Gatland, Melani Nanai.

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