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Brodie Retallick set for extended sideline stint after breaking thumb

By Tom Vinicombe
Brodie Retallick. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Chiefs are going to have to manage without All Black Brodie Retallick for an extended length of time with the big second-rower revealing that he suffered a broken thumb during Saturday evening’s loss to the Crusaders.

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Retallick left the field just 30 minutes into the match. The 30-year-old’s injury wasn’t immediately obvious, with Retallick clutching at his hand and shoulder at various stages before departing.

On Monday evening, Retallick posted to social media, confirming the diagnosis.

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“Broken thumb from the weekend, pretty frustrating but will be back soon,” the 30-year-old wrote, alongside an accompanying X-ray of the injury.

Retallick’s prognosis will largely depend on whether surgery is required but the former World Rugby Player of the Year – who only returned to the Chiefs this season after spending the prior two in Japan – will likely be sidelined for four to eight weeks. As such, Retallick will almost certainly miss the Chiefs’ final three games of the regular season against Kiwi opposition but should be back on deck for the latter trans-Tasman clashes. Crucially, he’ll likely make his return ahead of the finals series, which is set to kick off in the first week of June.

While losing a player of Retallick’s calibre will undoubtedly be frustrating for the Chiefs, the Clayton McMillan-coached side boasts arguably the best depth in the second row of any team in Super Rugby Pacific.

In Tupou Vaa’i and Josh Lord, McMillan still has two All Blacks locks at his disposal, with the former primarily filling in on the blindside flank this season. Naitoa Ah Kuoi, meanwhile, has been a top performer for the Chiefs since his debut in 2020 but has yet to earn a starting role this year while Laghlan McWhannell has impressed in his two starts to date and is also due some more time in the hot seat.

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Like the other New Zealand sides, the Chiefs haven’t boasted a clean bill of health this year due to Covid. However, it appears that the bulk of the squad have already been affected by and recovered from the virus – which bodes well for the rest of the season. It’s also forced the Chiefs to hand minutes to players who may not normally have expected to get game time at this stage of the season against Kiwi opposition.

“We’ve got depth,” McMillan said last week. “When we’re affected by Covid and injuries, we’re getting better at being able to deal with that.”

The Chiefs head coach also provided an update on the status of a number of players who’d been battling with longer-term injuries, including All Blacks loose forward Luke Jacobson, who hasn’t featured since the opening match of the season.

“Luke Jacobson probably could have played [against the Crusaders] at a pinch but again, given the magnitude of the game, we don’t really want to risk putting him out there when he’s not 100 per cent so I think another week and we’ll see him back out on the park.

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The news wasn’t so great for young flanker Simon Parker, however, who earned his first full-time contract for the Chiefs last season but managed just two appearances off the bench and then didn’t feature at all for Waikato during the NPC season.

“I’m not too sure we’ll see Simon Parker back anytime soon,” said McMillan. “He’s sort of just got a niggly injury – nothing significant but one that just prevents him from getting out on the field, being able to train at full capacity.”

Utility forward Mitch Brown and utility back Gideon Wrampling, however, will at least see some game time in the weeks to come.

“Mitch Brown should be available next week. Gideon Wrampling probably is still another two, three weeks away. Picked up an injury for Waikato in the NPC and quite a bit of tidy-up surgery. With a young guy like that, even though we’d love to have him out there running around, just gotta take a conservative approach with them especially when we’ve got other guys who are fit and able so certainly no rush with someone like Gideon.”

The returns of Brown, Jacobson and likely Pita Gus Sowakula, who was absent from the recent loss to the Crusaders, will inject some more experience back into the loose forwards and with Vaa’i potentially set to shift back into the second row due to Retallick’s injury, couldn’t come at a better time.

The Chiefs are set to take on the Hurricanes on Sunday and will name their match-day squad later this week.

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