Canes hooker suf­fers surgery blow

Upper Hutt Leader - - SPORT - HAMISH BID­WELL

A wrist in­jury is set to side­line Hur­ri­canes hooker Asafo Au­mua for the next three months.

Au­mua has had surgery on the frac­ture and faces six weeks in a cast. The Hur­ri­canes then ex­pect the 20-year-old to re­quire a fur­ther six weeks re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The in­jury was suffered in the team’s 38-37 win over the Sharks and leaves them pretty thin at hooker. Cap­tain Dane Coles is also out un­til July, at the ear­li­est, with a knee in­jury, so Can­ter­bury’s Nathan Vella has been drafted in as the Hur­ri­canes’ third hooker, be­hind Ricky Ric­citelli and James O’Reilly.

‘‘Whether he re­turns for play­offs, which hope­fully he will be, we’ll be pretty happy with that,’’ Hur­ri­canes as­sis­tant coach John Plumtree said of Au­mua.

Au­mua and Coles both at­tended Mon­day’s All Blacks ‘‘foun­da­tion’’ day in Welling­ton, even if nei­ther are close to play­ing. On the Coles front, Plumtree said even a re­turn in late July ‘‘was a bit of an un­known.’’

Eleven Hur­ri­canes were at the foun­da­tion day, in­clud­ing half­back TJ Per­e­nara and wing Nehe Mil­ner-Skud­der. One’s very near to a re­turn to play­ing, while the other’s not due back un­til late June.

Per­e­nara is able to do things such as lift weights, but his knee lig­a­ment in­jury will keep him out of footy for an­other four to six weeks.

‘‘Whether we see him be­fore the June [test match] break, we’re not sure. Prob­a­bly not,’’ Plumtree said.

In terms of the June break, the Hur­ri­canes ex­pect a rul­ing within a day or two about whether flanker Brad Shields will be free to play for Eng­land. Shields has sought a re­lease from New Zealand Rugby, who are un­der­stood to be close to a de­ci­sion.

Shields is re­garded by the Hur­ri­canes as an in­ter­na­tion­al­cal­i­bre player and they’ll hap­pily re­lease him for Eng­land’s games against South Africa, just as they would their All Blacks.

Mil­ner-Skud­der, mean­while, will ei­ther play in Thurs­day’s Hur­ri­canes De­vel­op­ment XV game against Ja­pan A in Levin, or when the Hur­ri­canes host the Sun­wolves at West­pac Sta­dium on Fri­day.

‘‘His re­turn to play will prob­a­bly be 20 or 30 min­utes. It will ei­ther be off the bench for us, or a start up there [in Levin],’’ said Plumtree.

Mil­ner-Skud­der’s come­back from shoul­der surgery will be off­set by the ab­sence of fel­low wing Wes Goosen. He broke his jaw in the team’s 25-13 win over the Chiefs and faces six weeks out.

Sec­ond five-eighth Ngani Laumape def­i­nitely won’t play against the Sun­wolves. He still needs his two All Blacks­man­dated weeks off, while first five-eighth Beau­den Bar­rett and lock Vaea Fi­fita are both due an­other one.

A de­ci­sion about whether Bar­rett or Ihaia West will play first-five on Fri­day is yet to be made.

GETTY IM­AGES

Hur­ri­canes hooker Asafo Au­mua faces three months on the side­line, with a wrist in­jury.

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