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."
David De Gea to Real Madrid: Spanish club resume £28m pursuit after fending Manchester United off Sergio Ramos
Karim Benzema to Arsenal: Transfer news live - Angel Di Maria to leave Manchester United, Emmanuel Adebayor to Aston Villa
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015 Third Test Day One report: England skittle Australia for 136, James Anderson takes six wickets, Ian Bell hits half-century
Nicolas Otamendi to Manchester United: Sergio Ramos is only defender of interest to Louis van Gaal
- 1 Cara Delevigne addresses awkward interview on Good Day Sacramento
- 2 Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
- 5 Living in Spain and commuting to London 'cheaper than actually working in London'
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Calais crisis: For desperate migrants it is 'England or death' as they brave dogs, riot police and speeding trains