Hurricanes star Asafo Aumua is in doubt to face the Chiefs in Wellington next Saturday after he left the field with a shoulder injury in his side’s 33-16 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch on Sunday.
The 23-year-old front rower departed the field early in the second half after tackling his All Blacks teammates Sevu Reece and Joe Moody in the same movement.
Hurricanes head coach Jason Holland said on Wednesday that Aumua hadn’t sustained any bone damage, “but obviously his AC joint is pretty banged up”.
As such, it is highly unlikely the one-test hooker will feature in next weekend’s clash with the Chiefs, which comes after this weekend’s bye.
That means the Hurricanes will have to test their depth in the No. 2 jersey given fellow rake Dane Coles has also been sidelined in the opening weeks of the new season as he makes his way back from a calf injury.
“Touch and go whether he’s right for the Chiefs,” Holland said of Coles.
“We’re hoping, but we won’t get too excited. He definitely won’t be right to peel out 50-60 minutes. We’ll play it by ear, hopefully he’s right but if it comes around too quick then we’ll accept that.”
Ricky Riccitelli came off the bench as Aumua’s replacement last weekend, while wider training squad members James O’Reilly and Tyrone Thompson are hanging in the wings as potential candidates for promotion into the match day side.
It isn’t only at hooker where the Hurricanes have been hit with injury concerns, as first-five Jackson Garden-Bachop is also in doubt for his side’s upcoming match due to an achilles tendon injury.
That injury forced Garden-Bachop from the field at half-time, and with no other bona fide first-five option in the side, fullback Jordie Barrett was forced to go into the No. 10 role.
“He’s had niggly achilles for a long time and we can manage it normally, but it obviously got pretty inflamed over the first half of that game,” Holland said of Garden-Bachop, who is awaiting the results of an MRI scan.
“The reality with those guys is, with the bye week we give them 4-5 days and see how they rock up on Monday.”
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New recruit Simon Hickey’s season-ending ACL injury has already put the Hurricanes under pressure in that position, meaning Garden-Bachop’s niggle has left the Wellington-based franchise short-handed in the key playmaking spot.
To fill the void of those players, Holland could pull Barrett out of his preferred fullback position and play him at No. 10, where he started for the All Blacks against Namibia at the 2019 World Cup.
Or, he could look to two of his wider training squad members in Counties Manukau five-eighth Orbyn Leger or 2019 New Zealand Schools representative Aidan Morgan.
Either of those two would be interesting options. Leger, a former New Zealand and Samoa U20 star, has experience at first-five in Super Rugby, having played there for the Chiefs in 2019 after moving south from the Blues.
Morgan, meanwhile, is a highly-touted teenage prospect who joined Wellington and the Hurricanes last year after emerging as a star for King’s College in Auckland.
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Holland spoke highly of Morgan on Wednesday, labelling him “a mature young guy”, but said it was unlikely Barrett would be called upon to fill the first-five spot against the Chiefs.
“He’s a possibility but he’s not as comfortable there as in the other places,” Holland said of Barrett.
“We [coaches] will have a talk about that. He’s a chance to play there but I’m not overly keen on it, to be honest. I think he’s a bit wasted there but we’ll see how training goes Thursday-Friday.”
The only other injury concern comes at lock as Scott Scrafton continues to work through an ankle injury, although Holland is hopeful the 27-year-old will be available next week after showing good signs of recovery progress.
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