The Blues have struck more problems with wing Rudi Wulf breaking a wrist and fellow All Black Ali Williams in doubt fro their opening phase of the Super 14 with a back injury.
Duncan Johnstone writes for Rugbyheaven NZ that coach Pat Lam revealed his latest headaches on Tuesday as the squad prepared for their final preseason match against the Highlanders at Albany on Thursday.
Lam, the rookie Blues coach, already has All Blacks Joe Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino and halfback Taniela Moa on suspended playing time because of impending fatherhood over the next few weeks.
Now the injury curse has struck.
Wulf broke the wrist in Friday night’s warmup match win over the Queensland Reds in Henderson. The hairline fracture was only confirmed on Monday when a scan revealed the problem after Wulf complained of ongoing pain.
Lam expects Wulf to be out for at least four weeks, meaning he will miss the tour of Australia and South Africa where the Blues play the Western Force, Bulls and Stormers over the opening three rounds of the championship.
“It’s unfortunate because Rudi has been playing well,” said Lam.
Williams is also in doubt for that trip after being hampered by a sore back.
He returned from the All Blacks Grand Slam tour with a niggle and complicated things at a weight session in the gym recently.
He hasn’t trained this week and Lam said his senior forward was very much a “day to day” proposition at the moment.
“It could be five days or it could be six weeks … we have to wait and see. So he is touch and go at the moment. But it’s obviously a big loss ,” said a frustrated Lam, adding the only bright spot was that a scan had revealed no major structural damage to the key lock.
The injury will certainly delay Williams’ return to action with the Blues after a season in Christchurch where he won the 2008 Super 14 with the Crusaders.
Williams joins his brother and fellow lock Jay on the Blues’ casualty list after the younger sibling injured an ankle in the recent warmup match against the Hurricanes.
Jay Williams also has a question mark over his place in a 26-man touring squad that will leave Auckland for Perth on Sunday.
The Blues now have All Black Anthony Boric and Kurtis Haiu as their top locking combination and they will start against the Highlanders.
Jay Williams has been tentatively named on the bench and Dean Budd covers the second row from the Blues wider training group while No 8 Chris Lowrey also has locking experience.
The Blues have good alternatives on the wing for Wulf in the form of fellow All Blacks Anthony Tuitavake and Rokocoko. Lam has also been impressed with the preseason form of Northland wing Rene Ranger who will be playing at this level for the first time.
“Everything has gone smoothly (until now) and you can’t plan when these things will happen. That’s why when you select your squad you ensure you trust the guys that are there,” said a philosophical Lam.
The baby situation is dependent on when the stork delivers the good news to the three waiting dads.
Rokocoko and Moa are likely to travel to Perth and then return to Auckland for the births. Kaino’s child is due to be born this Sunday and he will leave to join the Blues as soon as possible after that.
Of the Highlanders game, Lam said: “This is just another chance to step up and try and improve. It’s important we move forward.”
The following team has been named to take on the Highlanders at North Harbour Stadium on Thursday (2pm kickoff).
BLUES: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Taniela Moa, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Justin Collins, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Reserves: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Onosai’i Auva’a, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Jimmy Gopperth, 22 Jamie Helleur. Extras: Charlie Faumuina, Dean Budd, Peter, Saili, Grayson Hart, Michael Hobbs, Rene Ranger.