Sam Whitelock in doubt for France series

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 10:35 26/05/2013
Sam Whitelock
Getty Images
WON'T BACK DOWN: Sam Whitelock in action for the Crusaders against the Southern Kings earlier this season.

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All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock is in doubt for next month's series against France because of a finger injury.

Whitelock fractured a digit during the Crusaders' 28-19 loss to the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium on Friday night and is expected to be unavailable for a period ranging from three to six weeks.

Although he didn't complain about the injury during the match, subsequent X-rays have revealed the extent of the injury.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder this morning confirmed there was no chance of selecting Whitelock for next Friday night's match against the Waratahs at Christchurch's AMI Stadium.

"Sam is likely to be out for between three to six weeks, which means he won't be available,'' Blackadder confirmed. "Yes, it is a blow for Sam but we have got good cover in our squad with guys like Dominic Bird and Tom Donnelly.''

The All Blacks' first test against France will be on June 8 at Eden Park, followed by matches in Christchurch and New Plymouth.

The Crusaders will resume their Super Rugby campaign against the Highlanders on June 29. 

Whitelock's injury means All Blacks coach Steve Hansen is likely to have to rely on Brodie Retallick and Luke Romano to be his starting locks against France.

Bird, who is in his first season of Super Rugby and is uncapped at test level, may be listed in the reserves.

In the space of a couple of days Hansen has lost two of his most experienced locks.

On Friday veteran Ali Williams, 32, announced his retirement from international rugby just days after returning to the Blues following the All Blacks' wider training squad camp in Mt Maunganui.

The Hurricanes' Jeremy Thrush has since been brought into the All Blacks' wider training squad which will again meet in Mt Maunganui over the next three days.

It is uncertain whether Hansen will replace Whitelock for the camp which begins today.

Experienced second rowers are suddenly becoming a valuable commodity.

Anthony Boric, a member of the All Blacks' World Cup squad in 2011, is still with the Blues but has signed to play in Japan. 

Chiefs co-captain Craig Clarke, who is uncapped at test level but has been a loyal servant in the New Zealand domestic competitions, has signed to play in Ireland later in the season.

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