Sunday, 22 June 2008
The All Blacks' defence of the Tri- Nations rugby title has suffered a serious setback after fears today inspirational captain and flanker Richie McCaw will be sidelined for at least six weeks.
McCaw hobbled off AMI Stadium 30 minutes into last night's 44-12 second test defeat of England in Christchurch and was today diagnosed with a high ankle ligament strain.
He is expected to miss four matches of New Zealand's Tri-Nations campaign which starts against world champions South Africa in Wellington on July 5.
McCaw, the only specialist openside flanker in the squad, will also miss the second match against the Springboks in Dunedin a week later.
The All Blacks are next scheduled to face Robbie Deans' Wallabies in a highly-anticipated Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney on July 26.
The trans-Tasman rivals meet again in Auckland seven days later.
At this stage McCaw is only thought to be available for the trip to Cape Town for the third test against South Africa on August 17.
All Blacks management today said the injury was similar to that suffered by All Blacks and Crusaders teammate Daniel Carter during this year's Super 14. The star pivot was also out of action for six weeks.
A replacement for McCaw is being considered with Auckland's Daniel Braid, an All Black at the 2003 World Cup, a possible contender although he suffered a leg injury playing for New Zealand Maori against Fiji last weekend and subsequently dropped out of that squad.
Meanwhile, the prognosis was brighter for lock Ali Williams, who preceded McCaw to the sideline in the 18th minute with a sprained ankle.
All Blacks management were hopeful the senior lock would be available for the tournament opener.
NZPA. WORRYING TIMES: It takes a lot to force Richie McCaw off the field but a leg injury saw him replaced early against England, hot on the heels of Ali Williams' premature departure.