Much has been made of the touring side and the absentees from the British and Irish Lions squad; the loss of Billy Vunipola was – and still is – colossal, and the sad news surrounding Ben Youngs’ withdrawal from the 41-man squad was just as unsettling in the half-back positions.
The widely reported fitness of New Zealand captain, Kieran Read, also received wide attention; however, the All Black skipper is not the only player to be facing a race against fitness for the first test on the 24th of June.
Dan Coles has been out with concussion since March, and has now given Steve Hansen further reason to panic as he has withdrawn from the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs this coming Friday.
The hooker has been widely regarded as the best No.2 currently in the game, and his potential absence from the tests could prove a major a blow for the All Blacks.
“He hasn’t been able to train hard enough at this stage. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be available for any of the Tests or the first Test.”
— John Plumtree, Hurricanes coach
Another man ruled out of the Hurricanes-Chiefs clash, is lock, Brodie Retallick. The 26-year-old is also struggling with a bout of concussion; however, it is expected the second row’s absence is more precautionary, than serious for this Friday’s fixture.
Flanker, Jerome Kaino remains sidelined following an ongoing knee injury; whilst Ben Smith was unable to finish last weekend’s Crusaders-Highlanders match after also suffering from concussion; the full-back was brought off prematurely.
In what are key figures for the All Blacks, Hansen will be hoping all stars return to fitness as soon as possible. The Lions must be thinking positive at the thought of such figures missing the test series; but, at the same, if you’re going to beat the All Blacks, you want to do it when they are at full strength.