Standout Blues No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu is reportedly in doubt to play in this week’s Super Rugby Aotearoa clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Newshub reports that the in-form 22-year-old has undergone scans after he was spotted hobbling late in his side’s 26-15 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch last Saturday.
The extent of Sotutu’s apparent injury is yet to be revealed, but the report states he is unlikely to square off against the Hurricanes at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
The news will come as a hefty blow to the Blues’ preparations for Saturday’s derby match, as the youngster has enjoyed a breakout year off the back of the scrum for the Auckland franchise.
Sotutu’s sparkling form has led to speculation that he is among the prime contenders to fill the vacant No. 8 role in the All Blacks following Kieran Read’s international retirement.
In his absence, the Blues are likely to call upon Akira Ioane, who has been in similarly good form since coming into the starting side as a blindside flanker.
Ioane had long been used at the Blues’ No. 8 in recent years, but the rise of Sotutu this year has pushed him onto the side of the scrum, where he has blossomed as part of a rejuvenated forward pack.
Combining with openside flanker Dalton Paplii, Ioane and Sotutu have created a formidable loose forward dynamic, with their performances key in the Blues’ rise to second on the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings with three wins and one loss.
Speaking to media today, Hurricanes assistant coach Dan Cron labelled the trio as “most in-form loose trio in the world”.
“They’re probably the most in-form loose trio in the world at the moment, since we’re the only ones playing,” Cron said.
“[Sotutu] has been outstanding – he’s a threat off the back of the scrum, so we need to nullify that.
“Akira is playing well and in great shape, and they’re bringing Blake Gibson off the bench – he’s an outstanding player. They’ve got great depth there.”
The Hurricanes will nevertheless be eager to topple their northern rivals as they look to keep their winning streak alive after having beaten the Chiefs and Highlanders in consecutive matches following a winless start to their campaign.
A win for the Wellingtonians could see them leapfrog the Blues into second place, but victory for the visitors this weekend will see them close the gap considerably on the competition-leading Crusaders.
Both clubs will name their teams for the match on Thursday.
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