England’s lock Joe Launchbury, considered a first choice under coach Stuart Lancaster, will miss all his side’s November tests, while All Blacks winger Cory Jane and hooker Nathan Harris are being sent home from the United States.
Launchbury, who has started England’s last 20 tests, has been told to rest a nagging nerve problem in his neck and not to play again for eight weeks, the RFU said in a statement on Sunday.
“It’s obviously disappointing but it’s important for Joe … that he has the appropriate rest and recovery period and we are confident that he will be back in the New Year,” Lancaster said.
Uncapped Leicester lock Graham Kitchener has replaced Launchbury in the England squad, who have already had Luther Burrell and Stephen Myler ruled out of the game that many are considering to be a pointer to a potential World Cup final showdown in less than 12 months.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has also had to rejig his squad with Jane and Harris being sent on a flight back to New Zealand rather than to London after they suffered injuries in their side’s 74-6 demolition of the U.S. in Chicago.
Veteran winger Jane limped off with a hamstring strain against the Eagles, while rookie Harris twisted his ankle.
Hansen told reporters in Chicago Jane’s injury would keep him out for just two weeks but there was a high possibility he could re-injure the hamstring if he played against Wales in the final match of the team’s northern hemisphere tour.
“If we look after him right then it will settle down and it will be fine,” Hansen added of their approach to ensuring Jane was fit again for Super Rugby next year.
“We know he’s a world class player and he’s shown us that through the season at times.
“It is just a matter of him coming back and playing a good Super season and he will be a pretty hard man to leave out of the squad.
“Nathan Harris has also woken up sore and it looks like he may have torn the medial off his ankle which is a six week injury as well so he’s going home.”
Replacements would not be named until the team arrived in London, he added.
Harris’ injury creates greater problems for Hansen, who does not have much depth at hooker behind Dane Coles and Keven Mealamu with Harris considered a development project all season before he made his test debut off the bench against Argentina.
The 22-year-old made his first start against the Eagles on Saturday and scored his first test try, but then twisted his ankle badly less than two minutes later.
“It is unfortunate for Nathan,” Hansen said. “He has worked really hard and was in a good place and we are going to miss out on giving him some time.”
(Additional reporting by Mark Meadows; Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Martyn Herman)