WELLINGTON (AFP) – All Black pivot Aaron Cruden and his back-up Beauden Barrett have both been ruled out of Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against Australia, with lock Luke Romano also sidelined with a groin injury.
The trio were all injured in New Zealand's 47-29 win over the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday, adding to an All Blacks' sick list that already includes first-choice fly-half Dan Carter and forward Liam Messam.
Coach Steve Hansen said Romano was set to miss the entire tournament and would not be available until New Zealand's European tour in November, while Cruden would be out for anywhere from two-to-six weeks with a knee injury.
He said Barrett had a minor calf strain and should only miss two Tests, returning to face Argentina in Hamilton on September 7.
"It's obviously hugely disappointing for Luke but he is a strong character and is already planning his rehab with our medical staff," Hansen said.
New Zealand had already prepared for the worst, calling up pivots Colin Slade and Tom Taylor along with forwards Luke Whitelock and Brad Shields to cover any injuries for the game in Wellington.
"It's an exciting time for the replacement players Tom Taylor and Colin Slade and it's also a challenge now for the rest of the team to make their entry into the side as seamless as possible," Hansen said.
Slade, 25, has played 10 Tests and will be favourite to start against the Wallabies ahead of the uncapped Taylor.