Afoa likely to miss Wallabies clash

by Staff Writer

All Blacks prop John Afoa looks likely to miss the Tri-Nations Test against Australia next Saturday after fracturing a cheekbone in New Zealand's 40-7 win over South Africa on Saturday night.

The tighthead lasted a little over six minutes on the field after replacing Ben Franks in the front row early in the second half and, despite coach Graham Henry initially being optimistic about his chances of facing the Wallabies in Auckland, he now thinks the prognosis is not encouraging.

"The reports are not as good as I thought they were going to be. He doesn't look as positive as we thought it was last night," Henry said on Sunday.

A surgeon has yet to look at scans of the injury so there was still some doubt over the extent of the fracture for the 32-Test prop who will join Ulster after the World Cup.

Henry said with Tony Woodcock only returning to national provincial championship action with North Harbour on Tuesday it was likely they would bring another prop into the squad to assist with training.

The coaches had yet to discuss who that may be but Wellington prop Neemia Tialata and North Harbour's Ben Afeaki loom as contenders after both were involved in All Blacks training camps this year.

However, Henry said with Owen Franks rejoining the squad after missing both the Fiji and Springboks Tests and his brother Ben and fellow Crusader Wyatt Crockett in the squad, whoever was brought in was unlikely to feature in Test calculations.

"It wouldn't be a player we would bring in to play in the Test, I wouldn't have thought - someone who can help us with training."

Henry said everyone else came through Saturday night largely unscathed, although midfield back Ma'a Nonu complained of tightness in his hamstring and replacement Sonny Bill Williams had a sore leg.

They are both expected to be available to play the Wallabies in Auckland.

Aside from Owen Franks, lock Brad Thorn, No.8 Kieran Read and hooker Keven Mealamu will be available and will feature in the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup match.

Henry said wing Hosea Gear was likely to play after being sidelined with a hamstring problem while utility back Israel Dagg was scheduled to play club rugby in Hawke's Bay next weekend after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a thigh injury.

Midfielder Richard Kahui, who has had a hamstring injury, is not due to play for Waikato until the following week, ruling him out of contention to play the Wallabies.

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