WELLINGTON (Reuters) - All Blacks centre Ryan Crotty and fullback Ben Smith are in danger of missing the upcoming British and Irish Lions test series after they were injured in the Canterbury Crusaders’ 25-22 victory over the Otago Highlanders on Saturday.
Crusaders’ Crotty suffered a rib cartilage injury, while Highlanders’ Smith was forced off for a concussion check and did not return during the Super Rugby clash in Christchurch.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen names his squad on June 8, with the Crusaders due to play the Lions in Christchurch next Saturday.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson cast a gloomy prognosis for Crotty shortly after the game.
“He’s done a rib cartilage, so I think that Steve Hansen will be tucking into his notebook and thinking who’s next,” Robertson said.
The former All Blacks loose forward later rowed back on his initial assessment and said the extent of the injury would not be known until at least Sunday but that Crotty would probably miss “a couple of weeks”.
Crotty was the leading contender for one of the positions in the All Blacks’ midfield for the Lions series. The 28-year-old was likely to partner Sonny Bill Williams or Anton Leinert-Brown, depending on what kind of game Hansen wanted to play.
Smith did not want to leave the field after he fell heavily in a tackle but was forced off by referee Glen Jackson and did not return to the game.
It would mark his second concussion of the season and Highlanders coach Tony Brown said it was too early to determine if he would miss the Lions series, with the first test on June 24.
”It’s hard to say at this stage. I haven’t caught up with him or the doctor,“ Brown said. ”But he was walking around after the game, so he should be all good.
“Everyone wants to stay on the field in games like that. But, precautionary, he needs to go off and get checked and he didn’t pass.”
The loss of Smith, arguably the world’s best fullback, would be a setback for the All Blacks but with Israel Dagg returning to action for the Crusaders as a second-half substitute on Saturday Hansen has another option at the position.
Dagg, who is returning after knee surgery, could slot comfortably back into the number 15 jersey after spending time on the right wing last year.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney/Peter Rutherford