KIERAN Read has been ruled out of the All Blacks’ first Test against England with concussion symptoms while knee injuries have sidelined two other players.
In a heavy blow ahead of the Test at Eden Park on Saturday, No. 8 Read, winger Julian Savea and flanker Sam Cane have all been deemed unfit.
Read has been replaced in the squad by 2013 All Black Steven Luatua while Cane’s place is taken by Matt Todd, who joined the squad on Monday as injury cover.
There is no replacement for Savea, with the New Zealand selectors confident they can cover his absence.
The IRB world player of the year in 2013, Read only returned from a head knock suffered on April 19 last Friday in the Crusaders’ win over the Chiefs.
At an All Blacks training camp in Wellington last week, coach Steve Hansen said Read had fully recovered from the knock and was in the process of overcoming some sinus issues.
However, testing by the All Blacks medical staff revealed the 28-year-old still harbours symptoms of concussion and recommended he stand down this week.
Hansen said Read woke up on Monday “not feeling the best”.
“We’re not prepared to risk him playing and that’s our decision, not his, and we’ll progress that day by day,” Hansen said.
“Long term I’m not too concerned, but we’re just not prepared risk him this week.
“He’s frustrated, as you would be, but we’re very lucky we’ve got capable people who can fill his place.
“Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito have been performing very well and Liam Messam is an incumbent. We’ve got some good people to step up.”
Like Read, Savea will be considered for the second Test in Dunedin on June 14 if scans on Wednesday don’t reveal anything serious.
However, Cane is ruled out for the series after suffering a small fracture during the Chiefs’ loss to the Waratahs in New Plymouth on Saturday.
Captain Richie McCaw will be the starting openside flanker at Eden Park but conjecture will surround the starting replacements for Read and Savea.
Kaino could be poised to end a three-year absence and start at No. 8 or 6, while Ben Smith could be handed Savea’s left wing berth, with Cory Jane selected on the right wing.
The team is announced on Thursday.