England tour of New Zealand: Kieran Read ruled out of first Test in Eden Park as Kiwis also have injury doubt over talented wing Julian Savea
New Zealand have also seen flanker Sam Cane ruled out for the three-match series due to a knee injury as Steven Luatua and Matt Todd join squad
Tuesday 03 June 2014
England's prospects of delivering an unlikely victory in Saturday's first Test against New Zealand have improved after Kieran Read was ruled out of the series opener at Eden Park.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen revealed that Read, who has been sidelined since April with concussion, woke up on Monday morning "not feeling the best".
The reigning International Rugby Board player of the year made his comeback for the Crusaders on Saturday only to subsequently suffer a recurrence of the symptoms that have troubled him for the last month.
A doubt now hangs over the number eight's involvement in the series, while prolific wing Julian Savea is also a doubt for the opener due to a knee problem.
"We're not prepared to risk him playing and that's our decision, not his, and we'll progress that day by day," Hansen said of Read's situation.
"Long term I'm not too concerned, but we're just not prepared risk him this week.
"He's frustrated, as you would be, but we're very lucky we've got capable people who can fill his place.
"Jerome Kaino and Victor Vito have been performing very well and Liam Messam is an incumbent. We've got some good people to step up."
Read more: Cipriani intends to leave troubled past behind
Waller heads final battle survivors to join England
Vunipola ruled out with dislocated knee-cap
Steven Luatua has been drafted into New Zealand's training squad for Saturday to cover for Read.
The All Blacks have also lost openside Sam Cane to a knee injury for the series, although he was not expected to feature in the match-day 23. Matt Todd has been called up to plug the gap.
Savea will undergo a scan on Tuesday, with a decision on his availability made in time for Thursday's team announcement.
Read's loss will be keenly felt with the free-roaming back row among New Zealand's most influential players, but Hansen refuses to overstate the impact his absence will have.
"Losing players is only disruptive if we allow it to be. Rugby is a contact sport, we're going to have people get injured and we just have to deal with that," Hansen said.
New Zealand's unfamiliarity with English rugby was evident on Tuesday when lock Brodie Retallick was unable to name one member of Stuart Lancaster's touring party.
Asked if he knew any England player ahead of Saturday's series opener, Retallick responded "a couple". When pressed for a name, the second row said "Michael Lawes".
Retallick appeared to be mean Courtney Lawes, who is en route to New Zealand having helped Northampton win the Aviva Premiership final last weekend and is unavailable for the first Test.
Local bookmakers have installed New Zealand as overwhelming 1/16 favourites to prevail at Eden Park with England rated 8-1 underdogs.
"Everyone is expecting a massive match, physically and in skill terms. It will be a tough match," Retallick said.
"We've only had one week together as a team. We need to start well and carry on from there. We don't want a rusty start and then be playing catch-up footy."
Manchester United teased by Monaco after claims they could have signed 'Luis Suarez of Neymar' instead or £58m Anthony Martial
Former Manchester United star Karel Poborsky goes full hipster
England vs San Marino, Euro 2016 qualifier: Jamie Vardy cleared to make first start for country
Manchester United hit back at Real Madrid by claiming they let David De Gea 'slip through their fingers into the back of the net'
Serie B introduces 'green cards' to promote good behaviour, fair play and sportsmanship
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 3 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees