AUCKLAND – All Blacks prop Owen Franks will undergo season-ending surgery for an Achilles injury on Friday, handing rookie Nepo Laulala an opportunity to secure a full-time test role.
Sam Cane, Ryan Crotty and Wyatt Crockett have recovered from head knocks and been cleared for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against Argentina in New Plymouth, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
“It’s better to let him get it right and let him get back into some good recovery and a pre-season and we’ll see when he gets back for the Crusaders,” Hansen said of Franks at a media conference on Monday.
“We will see how the operation goes first and foremost and then go from there.”
Laulala gave a good account of himself in the number three jersey when he replaced Franks in the Bledisloe Cup test win over Australia in Dunedin.
Winger Waisake Naholo will miss the match against Argentina following a head knock he picked up in provincial rugby.
Uncapped Auckland Blues loose forward Blake Gibson could be in line for a test debut behind starting flanker Sam Cane, with Matt Todd nursing a hand injury.
“It came down to Blake and the two Otago boys, (James) Lentjies and (Dillon) Hunt but we just felt we would look at Blake this week and get some better information on him,” Hansen said.
“You can watch as many games as you like but having him in your training environment is good. We will, in time, probably have a look at the other two as well.”
The defending champion All Blacks are bidding for their third successive win of the tournament after opening with back-to-back victories over the Wallabies.