Blues' Charlie Faumuina ruled out for season
Blues and All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina will miss the rest of the Super Rugby season and the June tests after a rethink over his calf injury.
Auckland prop Sam Prattley has been called into the Blues squad as a replacement.
Faumuina's defection is a massive blow for Sir John Kirwan's Blues who struggled at scrum time in Friday night's 29-18 victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park that halted a three-game losing skid.
They badly missed the presence of the 1.85-metre, 128-kilogram tighthead who won seven caps for the All Blacks last year and they now face some major challenges going the rest of the way without him.
Faumuina was initially thought to be out for six to eight weeks with a torn calf suffered in the round-six defeat by the Waratahs in Sydney.
But Blues medic have confirmed the giant prop's recovery period could be in the region of 14 weeks, meaning he will miss the rest of the competition as well as the three June tests against France.
Kirwan said it was a major blow to lose someone of Faumuina's calibre but it was in the best interests of both the player and the team to replace him.
“Team doctor Stephen Kara said best case scenario for Faumuina returning was eight weeks but the worst case scenario was 14 weeks," Kirwan said.
"I think if we tried to rush Charlie back, he's the type of guy that wants to help the team out so he'd push hard to get back and possibly to the detriment of his long-term career.
“He needs to get on top of this injury, so keeping the team in mind and Charlie's future in mind we've decided to replace him.
“He's still going to be with us and we want to get him back as quickly as we can, but unfortunately the rules state that if you replace a player he can't come back for the season so that's a tough call, but Charlie was understanding and wants to try and get back to 100 per cent. So that's his main goal.”
The 23-year-old Prattley, a national age-grade representative, recently signed a two-year contract with Auckland after playing three seasons for Tasman. He spent two seasons in the Crusaders wider training group and was thrilled to get the call-up.
“I'm also pretty nervous joining the team for the first time this morning,” Prattley said.
“It's always been a goal of mine to step up to super rugby level and was one of the motivating factors in making the move up to Auckland.”
Kirwan added: “Sam played well for the Blues development team. He's one of those raw-boned, tough and rugged players who covers both sides of the scrum so that's a real positive for us.”
In terms of Faumuina's unavailability for the June tests, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen still has plenty of options at tighthead, though recent injuries to Owen and Ben Franks and the Chiefs' Ben Afeaki will have him weighing his options carefully.
The Blues host the surging Hurricanes at Eden Park on Saturday night.