The beleaguered All Blacks are set to be without lock Brodie Retallick for most of the Rugby Championship after he broke his cheekbone against Ireland.
Retallick left the field during the team's 32-22 loss to Ireland after a head clash with Ireland prop Andrew Porter.
The 31-year-old is expected to be sidelined for up to two months, ruling him out of most of the Rugby Championship clashes.
To compound the All Blacks’ second-row stocks conundrum, Crusaders captain Scott Barrett had to pull out of the third Test with a knee problem after being slated to start at blindside flanker.
Ordinarily Barrett would be the logical replacement for Retallick at lock, but Tupou Vaa’i, who replaced Retallick in the second half in Wellington, is now set to get more game time alongside veteran Sam Whitelock.
The All Blacks added former Blues captain Patrick Tuipulotu to the squad and he got some game-time off the bench in the second Test loss in Dunedin.
He will clearly be part of the mix, but Retallick’s 95-cap experience will be missed.