Marc Hinton - RugbyHeaven
Injury ends Kahui's season
New Zealand - Richard Kahui's injury curse continues, with the strapping midfielder's fallible shoulder ending his rugby year prematurely and putting a major cloud over his World Cup aspirations.
It was confirmed on Thursday that the talented Chiefs back, who has made just 11 Test appearances since making an exciting debut for the All Blacks in 2008, won't play again this year as he once again sets about mending his shoulder.
The 25-year-old missed all of the 2009 international season while he underwent reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder.
He had hoped to have left his shoulder problems behind him this year when he finally shook off a rib cartilage injury to play his way into the All Blacks mix through the June Tests.
But in the Tri-Nations opener against the Springboks in Auckland, Kahui suffered a small fracture of his right shoulder socket, and then re-injured the area playing for Chiefs against North Harbour earlier this month.
Kahui underwent an arthroscopy in Auckland late on Wednesday which confirmed surgery was required.
All Blacks Doctor Deb Robinson said the procedure confirmed the fracture was healing well, but Kahui had suffered a partial tear to his rotator cuff (the tendons that act to stabilise the shoulder) as well as minor cartilage damage, so had further surgery to repair those injuries.
"It's a real blow for Richard who had been recovering well from the earlier injury, but it's in his best interests to get the shoulder fixed now," Dr Robinson said.
Dr Robinson confirmed Kahui won't play again this year, and thus was out for the end-of-year tour, but she said he should be available for next year's Super Rugby competition.
That leaves Kahui with a massive task in front of him to break into the All Blacks squad for next year's World Cup.
With a logjam of midfield contenders, the Chiefs man, who covers both midfield spots and wing, will probably need a standout Super Rugby campaign to leapfrog his rivals.
What he does have is the backing of the national coaches who value his abilities, big-game composure and his ability to cover several positions.
But they, like his many fans, will be getting frustrated by the injuries that continue to keep this talented performer off the paddock.
Kahui's injury could open up a chance for emerging Crusaders star Robbie Fruean to enter the national picture, though he still looks like having plenty of competition with Blues' Isaia Toeava due back late in the provincial campaign after a long spell out with a hip injury, and others like Rene Ranger more than capable of covering the position.
With Conrad Smith the undisputed top-choice No 13, it will be interesting to see who Graham Henry elects to take on tour as backups in that position. Ranger and either Fruean or Toeava shape as the leading contenders, presuming Sonny Bill Williams remains as a specialist second five.