All Blacks and Crusaders standout Scott Barrett might not play again this year.
The Crusaders captain has been ruled out for between 12-16 weeks after undergoing surgery on the damaged plantar fascia ligament in his foot, which he injured in an inter-squad match before the start of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season.
The timeline means Barrett will miss the entire Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, and with the All Blacks’ schedule still up in the air, it is doubtful whether he will be able to pull on the black jersey in 2020.
As it stands, the All Blacks are understood to be tentatively scheduled to play the Wallabies in a four-match Bledisloe Cup series, with the first test pencilled in for October 10 and likely to be staged in Wellington, and the series set to end on November 8.
However, even if Barrett were to recover in time to play a part in the Bledisloe Cup, he wouldn’t have played a competitive match in months, and his best hopes of getting back on the field this year might be for Canterbury in the Mitre 10 Cup, which runs until the end of November.
The Crusaders’ vaunted forward pack will also be without rising star Cullen Grace, who is also likely to miss the remainder of the Super Rugby Aotearoa season.
Grace fractured his thumb against the Chiefs and will be out for six-to-eight weeks.
He has been replaced by Ethan Blackadder in the Crusaders’ starting lineup for Saturday night’s game against the Highlanders, while George Bridge and Bryn Hall have been rested.
David Havili comes in at fullback, with Will Jordan moving to the wing, while Leicester Faingaanuku starts ahead of Sevu Reece. Mitchell Drummond starts at halfback, with Tom Christie replacing Billy Harmon, and Quinten Strange returns from injury to be included on a bench with includes several players who could make their Super Rugby Aotearoa debut – Andrew Makalio, Sione Havili, Ere Enari and Fetuli Paea.
The Highlanders have also made several changes, with Daniel Lienert-Brown, Liam Coltman and Jeff Thwaites forming a new front row, while the trio from last week drops to the bench.
Injured winger Sam Gilbert is replaced by promising utility Ngane Punivai, while Michael Collins comes in for Scott Gregory at fullback.
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