According to a report from the New Zealand Herald, the All Blacks will be without their most experienced midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown after he underwent minor elbow surgery on Friday.
The Herald reports the 26-year-old’s elbow has been locking up in recent weeks, with scans revealing bone fragment concerns that required minor keyhole surgery.
The successful surgery is expected to leave Lienert-Brown sidelined for New Zealand’s July 3 test against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland and the July 10 test against Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
The Chiefs veteran could recover in time for the second Fijian test at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton on July 17, according to the Herald, but his absence in at least the first two tests will leave significant hole in Ian Foster’s side.
Having been in the All Blacks set-up since 2016, Lienert-Brown has accrued 49 test caps and was used heavily during the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
With Goodhue ruled out for the season due to an ACL injury and Ngani Laumape set to leave for France in the coming weeks, Lienert-Brown stood as by far the most accomplished available midfielder in New Zealand prior to his surgery.
However, Foster will now be tasked with competing against the two Pacific Island nations without three of his top midfielders, leaving him bereft of many experienced options in that area of the squad.
Blues star Rieko Ioane is in the second year of his full-time switch from the wing to the midfield at the Auckland franchise and will now be the most established midfield candidate at Foster’s disposal.
Despite his 34 test caps, Ioane is yet to prove himself as an international midfielder, with his only opportunity last year coming in the first Bledisloe Cup test against the Wallabies in Wellington, where he butchered a certain try and was caught out defensively.