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Ngatai all but ruled out of tour

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/09/2016

Chiefs midfielder Charlie Ngatai is unlikely to play for the All Blacks again in 2016 after failing to adequately recover from concussion.

Ngatai, 26, hasn't played any rugby since his head knock in May.

As a result he missed both his Test side's June series whitewash over Wales and stroll towards the Rugby Championship.

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said Ngatai was progressing well but still well off a return to action.

He had been helping out for provincial club Taranaki in the meantime.

"When you've been out of rugby for as long as he has, what's most important is his health and long-term recovery," Foster told Radiosport.

"Let's just make sure he gets the best possible rehab and a chance to get right throughout the summer."

The loss of Ngatai and fellow midfielder Sonny Bill Williams to injury was expected to be a blow to the side after the losses of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith after the 2015 World Cup.

But the nascent partnership of Crusaders second-five Ryan Crotty and Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa has paid dividends so far in the Rugby Championship.

Foster said the pair were nailing the basics of their positions and had impressed the coaching staff.

"They're the unsung heroes at the moment," Foster said.

"Some of their running lines, their catch-pass, some of their work in the defensive system has been top draw."

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