Crusaders lose two for season, Lienert-Brown's return delayed

Tue, Mar 14
Fletcher Newell is tackled by the Chiefs.

The injury ward for this year's Super Rugby competition is already starting to fill up with the Crusaders and Chiefs especially feeling the pinch.

The Crusaders announced this morning they have lost two players for the rest of the season with All Blacks prop Fletcher Newell and lock Mitchell Dunshea both out.

Newell has been sidelined by a foot injury while Dunshea is nursing a chest issue.

"Following specialist review it was determined he required surgery to repair this," the Crusaders said of Newell.

Surgery was also required for Dunshea.

The Canterbury franchise has also lost Cullen Grace to a collarbone injury although he is expected to return to the side in six weeks.

Crusaders assistant coach Tamati Ellison said the Crusaders' other injury concern, vice captain David Havili, was still awaiting an update from their medical team after he left the field early last week with an arm issue.

"It was a bummer to lose Dave so early in that game and the leadership that he provides," Ellison said.

"So, we've definitely got our fingers crossed on the medical on those injuries."

Crusaders second-five David Havili goes over for a try against the Highlanders.

Midfielder Jack Goodhue (groin) and hooker George Bell, who has been out since late last year with turf toe, are also needing updates while fullback Will Jordan remains scratched from the squad with a migraine-related condition.

It adds to a rough start to their title defence with the reigning champions holding an unfamiliar losing record of one win and two defeats - their latest a stunning one-point loss at the hands of the Fijian Drua.

Veteran lock Sam Whitelock said the side aren't panicking.

“For us, it's always about our conversations, it's always about addressing what needs to be addressed," Whitelock said.

"Sometimes we've got to work on our weaknesses, but sometimes keep working on our strengths, too, because that's a point of difference."

Chiefs to remain without Lienert-Brown

Anton Lienert-Brown sports a moonboot at Chiefs training.

Though nowhere near as significant, the Chiefs are also facing headaches around injuries to key figures in their squad.

All Blacks midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown, who was originally only expected to miss three rounds after suffering an ankle sprain in their season-opening win over the Crusaders, will be out for another month.

It's the latest hiccup in a frustrating string of injuries for Lienert-Brown after he played just four Chiefs games last year before a shoulder injury ruled him out for six months.

Like the Crusaders, Lienert-Brown's absence adds to an already well-written injury list with Quinn Tupaea already out for the season as he continues to rehabilitate his serious knee injury caused by foul play during an All Blacks Test against the Wallabies last year.

The midfielders are joined by Gideon Wrampling, Alex Nankivell and Rameka Poihipi on the sideline along with two other All Blacks, locks Tupou Vaa'i and Josh Lord.

Lord had his 2022 rugby year ended with an ACL rupture while Vaa'i is expected to miss two weeks with a low-grade MCL injury sustained in their round two win over the Highlanders.

McMillan said he would look to rotate his squad for the Rebels after seeing "a bit of tiredness" against the Highlanders last week.

"A good majority of our squad have played big minutes over these three games, so there’s probably a need to freshen some guys up," he said.

“But we’ve got some depth in the squad, and there’s been some disappointed guys over the last couple of weeks who have been itching for their opportunity, so it’s probably an opportune time to inject them and give them an opportunity to put their best foot forward.”


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