All Blacks trio injury doubts for Super Rugby Pacific finals and Irish series

Three All Blacks stars are in doubt for the rest of the world Super Rugby Pacific finals, as well as next month’s Test series against Ireland.

After a few hours, Highlanders captain Aaron SmithBlues captain Dalton Papalii and Crusaders flanker Ethan Blackadder were all reported to have sustained injuries on Friday.

Blackadder, who was in good shape for the Crusaders when they dropped the Reds to clinch a semi-final spot in Christchurch, left the field during the second half of the 37-15 quarter-final win at Orangetheory Stadium with a shoulder injury.

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Trembling with pain as he left the field, Crusaders head Scott Robertson revealed post-match that the nine-test international is unlikely to show up for his side again this year.

“It’s a shoulder, not a great one,” Robertson said in an early indication that his All Blacks pick prospects don’t look bright.

“He probably won’t be involved for the rest of the season for us, and hopefully it doesn’t (require) surgery.”

Blackadder will have scans to confirm the severity of the injury, which could have sidelined him for months if the 27-year-old is forced to undergo surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder.

The sight of Blackadder’s painful exit from that match came shortly after reports that Smith and Papalii would both be unavailable for the quarterfinal clash between the Blues and Highlanders at Eden Park in Auckland Saturday.

The Highlanders confirmed to Thing Friday that Smith, the current All Blacks halfback, was “in doubt” for the do-or-die collision due to a groin injury.

While the nature of Smith’s injury seems far less serious than that of Blackadder, Thing suggested that the 101-test star may require two to three weeks to recover in time for the All Blacks series.

That would be a major blow to the Highlanders, who would be without their talismanic leader for the whole of the. Super Rugby Pacific finals should shock the competition and progress beyond the Blues this weekend.

In Smith’s absence, the Highlanders are likely to begin Folau Fakatava and promote Kayne Hammington on the bench.

Crusaders side Ethan Blackadder leaves his side’s quarterfinals against the Reds with a shoulder injury. (Photo by Joe Allison / Getty Images)

The Blues also face the likelihood of any changes to their match day team as well, according to the New Zealand Heraldwhich reports that Papalii will not play against the Highlanders.

According to the HeraldPapalii could be out for the rest of the Super Rugby Pacific campaign due to a “medical issue” that leaves him “in doubt” for the three-test series against Ireland.

The Blues declined to comment on the situation, but it is believed Adrian Choat will replace Papalii on the open side, with a German star Anton Segner also inaccessible after suffering an ankle last week.

Papalii’s loss would be a major blow for the Blues as the 12-head loose forward has been one of the formative players in Super Rugby Pacific this season.

An instrumental figure in the record 13-match unbeaten streak of his side, Papalii would also be a major loss for the All Blacks, with whom the 24-year-old is expected to play a prominent role against Ireland.

Losing Papalii and Blackadder to injury would thin out New Zealand’s front-line side actions for All Blacks head coach Ian Foster to pick from, and leave captain. Sam Kano as the direct favorite to start at an open side winger.

Without Papalii, other options to fill the jersey number 7 include Hurricanes power Ardie Saveaalthough he is likely to start at No. 8, and versatile bosses rear rower Luke Jacobson.

Jacobson’s chances – and those of others such as Blues loosen forward Akira Ioane and Highlanders injured Shannon Frizell – Starting on the blind side can also get a boost if Blackadder is away for a big period.

Foster is already without the services of a midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown (displaced shoulder) and Crusaders prop Joe Moody (broken ACL) for the rest of the year.

The All Blacks squad, expected to consist of about 36 players, for the Ireland series will be called on June 13th.


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