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'Potentially his year's done': Major injury blow for All Blacks flanker

By Tom Vinicombe
Shannon Frizell. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

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The Highlanders finally have their first win of the season under their belts but it’s come at a hefty cost.

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Tony Brown’s men are no strangers to injuries with the likes of Pari Pari Parkinson, Jona Nareki, Patelesio Tomkinson, Josh Timu, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Ngatungane Punivai and Billy Harmon all spending ample time on the sidelines this year and while some of those players could feature in the near future, it appears that the season could be over for two of the Highlanders’ best performers this year, Shannon Frizell and Manaaki Selby-Rickit.

Frizell has been one of the Highlanders’ best and most consistent players since his breakout year with the side in 2018 when he also earned debut All Blacks call-up. The Tongan-born loose forward has been a permanent fixture in the No 6 jersey for the southerners in the seasons since and has generally been a powerful workhorse on the field – even if he’s not yet managed to regularly transfer that form into the test arena.

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Dan Carter identifies the keys to success for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup.
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Dan Carter identifies the keys to success for the All Blacks at next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Barely a minute into Friday night’s clash with Moana Pasifika, Frizell was caught in an awkward tackle with his leg jutting off at a painful angle and subsequently had to be helped from the field. Gareth Evans joined the fray in his place and Frizell could be seen supporting himself with crutches following the match.

Second-row Selby-Rickit, who’s been one of the most impressive locks in New Zealand this season, joined Frizell on the sidelines towards the end of the first half with Max Hicks earning a debut appearance.

 

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Speaking after the match, head coach Brown confirmed that Frizell and Selby-Rickit had both done their MCLs.

“You can’t replace those two guys,” he said. “Shannon was playing the best rugby he’s played in a long time so he’d be very disappointed that potentially his year’s done.”

Evans and Hicks both put in competent performances despite having to clock up more minutes than they might have expected going into the match while the likes of hooker Rhys Marshall and halfback Folau Fakatava both added some spice off the bench later in the piece to help the Highlanders’ to a 37-17 victory.

“I thought Rhys Marshall off the bench was fantastic and Folau added a lot to the intensity of the game, especially on defence,” said Mauger. “Great to get the impact and a couple of early injuries in the game is always hard to replace. I thought those boys did well and I think we’ve lost [Frizell and Selby-Rickit] for the season from the looks.”

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Brown was also pleased for to blood another youngster in the form of Tasman lock Hicks – the seventh Highlander to earn their Super Rugby debut in 2022.

“It’s always great to get your Super Rugby debut and Max has been training hard,” he said. He’s had a massive pre-season. He’s only a young guy so to get his debut out here tonight and play a lot of time and get a good win, he’d be very proud of that.”

The one positive on the injury front is that regular starters Thomas Umaga-Jensen and Billy Harmon are both nearing a return and could feature against the Hurricanes next Saturday.

“They’re pretty good, I think,” Brown said. “I think they should be available.”

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