Rugby – NZ captain Read could miss June tests after back surgery

Image: The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team captain Kieran Read holds a ball during a team training session in Sydney, Australia, August 19, 2016, REUTERS/Jason Reed Picture Supplied by Action Images

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – All Blacks captain Kieran Read could be left out of the three-match series against France in June to ensure he is fully recovered from the back surgery he had last year, coach Steve Hansen has said.

Read had surgery last December on a protruding disc in his back that was pinching nerves and causing leg pain. He missed the All Blacks’ final test of the year against Scotland last November because of the problem.

He was expected to be out of action for between four and six months but Hansen said there was now no definitive timeframe for his return.

“The issue with nerve damage is that you can’t put an exact timeline on the recovery,” Hansen told the New Zealand Herald on Saturday.

“The medics have said it could take between four to six months, and there is a lot of time between four and six, so there is no point in panicking.

“You don’t want him to come back too soon and he injures himself, so we will let the experts make the decision when they think it is all go, and Kieran will listen to his body and what it is telling him.

“There has to be a long-term focus because there is a lot of rugby ahead. If he doesn’t play in Super Rugby or in the June series, so be it.”

Read’s Super Rugby coach Scott Robertson told reporters earlier this week the number eight was likely to miss an initial target of mid-April for his return.

Robertson also said that Read had returned to training by himself but not yet joined the Canterbury Crusaders.

The All Blacks face France in the first test in Auckland on June 9, but the primary focus for Hansen is likely to be the team’s end-of-year tour, which he is using as a chance to test players and plans ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan.

The third Beldisloe Cup test against Australia will be held in Yokohama on Oct. 27, before the world champions face Japan in Tokyo on Nov. 3.

They then play England on Nov. 10 in London and Six Nations champions Ireland in Dublin the following Saturday before finishing their season against Italy on Nov. 24.

(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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