Star Highlanders recruit Nehe Milner-Skudder could be “potentially available” to play against the Hurricanes in his side’s final Super Rugby Aotearoa clash next week despite picking up a fresh knee injury.

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The 29-year-old former All Black wasn’t included in the Highlanders side to face the Crusaders in Christchurch this weekend, with head coach Aaron Mauger revealing on Friday that he had sustained an MCL tweak earlier in the week.

“He picked up an MCL tweak the other day, so he’s back on that injury list,” Mauger told media.

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Josh Ioane on Crusaders derby

“We’re hoping to get him right for some club rugby tomorrow, but he’ll be unavailable for the weekend.”

The news comes after Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown last week said that the 13-test outside back was preparing to return to contact training after enduring a 21-month recovery spell from a troublesome shoulder injury.

Milner-Skudder’s last appearance came in November 2018 when he played for the All Blacks in their 69-31 victory over Japan in Tokyo, and hasn’t featured since as he continues his rehabilitation.

Mauger indicated that the injury isn’t too significant, and that the 2015 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year, who signed a two-season deal with the Highlanders in May, may be free to play against his former side, the Hurricanes, next Saturday.

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Should he fail to prove his fitness by then, though, Milner-Skudder will have to wait until 2021 to make his Highlanders debut.

His injury woes echoes that of other prominent figures who have returned to New Zealand to play in Super Rugby Aotearoa but are yet to feature in the Kiwi league.

Former All Blacks and Crusaders legend Dan Carter was a surprise signing by the Blues shortly before the competition kicked off, and was expected to make his franchise debut against the Hurricanes in round six.

However, a calf injury ruled him out of that fixture, and with only one more round to play after this weekend, the 38-year-old has conceded it might be too big of an ask for him to recover in time to face off against the Crusaders in the final round of action.

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Elsewhere, the Hurricanes re-signed franchise icon Julian Savea on a short-term deal last week, but having not played since leaving French club Toulon, he failed to make the match day squad to play the Chiefs in Wellington on Saturday.

The 30-year-old will only have one more opportunity to make an appearance for the side he played 116 times for between 2011 and 2018 when they travel to Dunedin to face off against Milner-Skudder’s Highlanders in eight days’ time.

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