In­jury knocks Coles out of Bledis­loe

The Horowhenua Mail - - SPORT - MARC HINTON

An­other week, an­other cruel set­back for world-class All Blacks hooker Dane Coles.

Coles has been ruled out of Satur­day’s Bledis­loe Cup rugby test in Syd­ney, with the 30-yearold, 49-test hooker’s head in­jury is­sues mak­ing a wor­ry­ing re­turn.

The set­back comes just as Coles looked to have fi­nally shaken off a per­sis­tent head prob­lem that had kept him out of Su­per Rugby for four months since March.

The in­jury and also forced him to miss the drawn se­ries against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions.

He made it back to the field for the Hur­ri­canes’ play­off run, which came to a halt at the semi­fi­nal stage in Jo­han­nes­burg, and played in the All Blacks’ ‘‘game of three halves’’ hitout against Taranaki and Coun­ties Manukau in Pukekohe on Fri­day night.

But it was in that match that Coles picked up an­other head knock, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen con­firm­ing that had forced him to be with­drawn from Satur­day’s open­ing Bledis­loe at Syd­ney’s ANZ Sta­dium.

Coles’ Hur­ri­canes team-mate, Ricky Ric­citelli, has been sum­moned to Syd­ney as a re­place­ment, with Cru­saders hooker Cody Tay­lor set to re­sume the start­ing role he had against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions, and Nathan Har­ris re­main­ing bench cover.

Ric­citelli im­pressed dur­ing the Su­per Rugby sea­son as Coles’ long-term re­place­ment, and has been re­warded for a se­ries of lively dis­plays with this callup.

Hansen said Coles had left the field in Pukekohe ‘‘as a pre­cau­tion’’ af­ter be­ing hit by an el­bow or knee, and would not be con­sid­ered this week in Syd­ney.

That con­tin­ues a no-risks pol­icy in the All Blacks squad when it comes to head knocks.

Hansen said Coles would still train with the team and be fur­ther as­sessed by med­i­cal staff dur­ing the week in Syd­ney.

‘‘It’s noth­ing too se­ri­ous, but enough for us to say that we don’t want to play him. He should be avail­able for Dunedin [on Au­gust 26],’’ Hansen said.

The All Blacks have also re­leased out­side backs Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der and David Hav­ili for the week.

The pair will the All Blacks squad in Dunedin for the se­cond of the Bledis­loe Cup Tests.

Coles’ set­back will be a ma­jor con­cern, given the on­go­ing na­ture of his prob­lems dur­ing Su­per Rugby.

SHANE WENZLICK/PHOTOSPORT

Hooker Dane Coles suf­fered the head knock in the All Blacks warmup match in Pukekohe.

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