This article was originally published on Stuff and is reproduced with permission
All Blacks and Chiefs midfielder Quinn Tupaea has been ruled out of rugby for nine months following the ugly cleanout by Wallabies lock Darcy Swain in the first Bledisloe Test.
It was initially thought that Tupaea would not need surgery and would miss only three months, but the All Blacks announced on Thursday that fresh scans revealed extensive damage to his ACL.
Tupaea will miss Super Rugby Pacific and now faces a race for fitness and form before the Rugby World Cup next year.
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Swain copped a six-week ban for the incident but he will only miss three Tests after Rugby Australia controversially named him in the Australia A squad for their three-game series against Japan.
The All Blacks will be fuming at the revised diagnosis, which will alter their long-term thinking around their midfield selections.
“We’ve got a big issue with it,” coach Ian Foster said of the incident after the Test in Melbourne.
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“We’ve got a player who’s putting (Tupaea) out for nine months and you’re not allowed to target legs on the side at a cleanout past the ball, so the rules are pretty clear.”
All Blacks veterans Beauden Barrett and Aaron Smith shared their coach’s frustrations in the days following the Bledisloe opener.
“I feel for Quinn,” Barrett said.
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“He basically didn’t see it coming. He was a sitting duck… it was a bit of a free shot.
“I feel for him because he’s going to be out of the game for a long time and I’m not too sure what’s happening in their camp with Darcy Swain. We don’t like to see these sorts of injuries.”
Smith, too, hinted that the nature of the incident had left a bitter taste in the All Blacks camp.
“Seeing Quinn like that on Friday was pretty tough,” he said.
“You always feel for the brothers. Injuries happen in rugby, but some can be controlled.”
Wallabies coach Dave Rennie initially questioned whether the incident even merited the yellow card that was shown to Swain on the night.
“I’m not convinced about Darcy’s (yellow card),” Rennie said.
“It was certainly nothing intentional. Ironically, he got neck-rolled prior to him cleaning out, but that wasn’t picked up.”
However, Rennie later changed his opinion after the judicial process that saw Swain banned for six weeks.
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The All Blacks are already battling injuries in the midfield, with Anton Lienert-Brown yet to return following a serious shoulder injury, while Jack Goodhue has been plagued by a long-term knee injury.
The All Blacks used Jordie Barrett at No.12 in the 40-14 win against the Wallabies last weekend, and the Tupaea news could push Foster into shifting the Hurricanes star to a permanent midfield role.
The All Blacks will name their squad on October 9 for their end-of-season-tour against Japan, Wales, Scotland and England.
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The Chiefs, meanwhile, will be hugely disappointed to lose a key weapon for the entire season.
Although they have good depth in the area with Lienert-Brown, Alex Nankivell and Rameka Poihipi, no one quite offers Tupaea’s ball-carrying strength.
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