Experienced Black Sticks striker Hugo Inglis has been ruled out of the upcoming Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Melbourne after breaking a thumb during a practice match.
Inglis copped the blow playing against the Victorian Institute of Sport on Monday and Hockey New Zealand confirmed today he would return home ahead of the team's opening match against world No.1 and reigning Olympic champions Germany on Saturday.
The 87-cap forward has been replaced by Kane Russell, a stand out player for New Zealand during the under-21 side's campaign at the recent Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia.
"It's given Kane an opportunity, he's been around the squad a little bit and he's one of the younger players coming through that we expect he'll have a good, promising career for New Zealand," said Australian-born head coach Colin Batch, who makes his tournament debut as Shane McLeod's successor.
The selection of 20-year-old Russell, who has made two appearances for the senior team, was influenced by his ability to provide the world No.6-ranked Black Sticks with another option to take penalty corners.
Andy Hayward and Richard Petherick, New Zealand's drag flick specialists at London 2012, are both unavailable due to work commitments and injury so finishing off the set piece falls to relative newcomer Matt L'Huillier, 167-cap defender Shea McAleese and Russell.
Despite Inglis's misfortune, New Zealand are still well served in the front line by their most experienced player, 286-game veteran Phil Burrows, Simon Child (173) and another centurion Nick Wilson (118).
New Zealand also face the 11th-ranked Indians on Sunday and England (4th) on Tuesday in pool before a quarterfinal against a pool B opponent: Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium or Pakistan next Thursday.
The Black Sticks play their final warm-up game against Belgium today, the side Batch coached in London before joining the New Zealand set-up in September.
- © Fairfax NZ News