WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The All Blacks have confirmed captain Kieran Read will miss Friday's one-off test against Samoa and will make his return from a six-week injury layoff in the first test against the British and Irish Lions on June 24.
Read has missed most of the second half of the Super Rugby season with a broken thumb and will now be forced to go into the three-test series against the Lions without the benefit of warmup matches. But All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said he is confident the backrower will be able to cope with that challenge.
"Our last skipper (Richie McCaw) used to be able do it and this one has got similar mental fortitude and strength of character," Hansen said. "It's encouraging to know it can be done by people with those attributes.
"He's in good physical nick and fortunately you don't have to run on your thumb so he's done a lot of mileage."
The All Blacks received generally good news about injuries when they began to come into camp in Auckland on Sunday ahead of the Samoan test.
Backrower Jerome Kaino, who has been sidelined since April after knee surgery, will play against Samoa as will fullback Ben Smith and lock Brodie Retallick, who had been in doubt after showing symptoms of concussion.
Center Ryan Crotty is still in doubt for the Samoa test as he continues his recovery from a rib injury.
Hansen said Crotty "hasn't had any contact or anything yet and it might be we choose not to play him."
"But he's looking pretty good. We'll just take our time with him. He's down to train tomorrow and the next day and from there we'll get a better gauge."
Hansen said Kaino "will definitely be good because then we don't go into a test match with both (Kaino and Read) being short of a run."
Flyhalf Aaron Cruden will not play against Samoa because of a minor knee injury.
The All Blacks' main injury concern ahead of the Lions series remains hooker Dane Coles, who is suffering symptoms of concussion.
"He's doing controlled training, which is a step further than he was a couple of weeks ago," said Hansen. "He's coming along nice. But it's just one of those injuries you can't rush, and God willing he'll come right quickly, and if not we'll wait and wait and wait until he does."