All Blacks’ World Cup rocked by injury blow

The All Blacks have been dealt a big blow to their Rugby World Cup campaign in France with confirmation Crusaders star Sevu Reece has suffered a blown ACL.

The destructive winger injured his knee in the Crusaders’ fiery clash with the Blues in round four of Super Rugby Pacific.

“We really feel for him. He’s been incredible for us. It’s a big loss,” Crusaders coach Scott Robertson said on Wednesday.

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“It’s a hard one for him and the whole club because he is so important to us. Really feel for him.

“He’s been incredible for us. A lot of hard work will get him back to where he was beforehand, a world-class wing.”

Reece’s try-scoring skills will be sorely missed, being the fastest player in Super Rugby history to reach 40 tries, doing so in 50 games.

In 59 appearances for the Crusaders, Reece has poured in 46 tries, an incredible rate that he has kept up when representing the All Blacks.

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Since his All Blacks debut in 2019, Reece has been a regular on the right wing, scoring 15 tries in 23 tests.

The lethal finisher also started four games in the 2019 Rugby World Cup, scoring two tries, and was looking to add to that tally this year in France.

The Reece injury opens the door for the hotly contested spot on the right-wing going into the World Cup.

With several possible players starring for their respective New Zealand Super Rugby franchises this season, the competition is intense.

Blues star Caleb Clarke is the lead candidate to occupy the left wing for the All Blacks, but his rising teammate Mark Telea has played himself into contention this season.

Telea will be battling with Crusaders aces Will Jordan and Leicester Fainga’anuku for the spot.

Jordan, a fast and elusive outside back, starred for the All Blacks in 2022, being named to the World Rugby dream team of the year.

However, since concussion-related injuries restricted him from playing so far in 2023, Fainga’anuku has been a dominant force on the left wing of the Crusaders.

Scoring six tries in only four appearances, Fainga’anuku does however have a preference to play on the left wing.

But the combination of Clarke and Fainga’anuku on each wing could be too irresistible for All Blacks selectors to ignore.

An interesting potential bolter is Chiefs star Shaun Stevenson, the leading try scorer in Super Rugby Pacific this season.

Currently playing at fullback, Stevenson has plied his trade as a dangerous right winger in the past, both for the Chiefs and the Māori All Blacks.

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The Reece injury compounds an already depleted Crusaders outfit, which is missing several key players, including All Blacks Will Jordan, Ethan Blackadder, Sam Whitelock and David Havili.

After a shaky start to the season – initially only winning one match from three – the Crusaders have claimed back-to-back wins against the Blues and the Brumbies but face a tough schedule with so many injuries.

In promising news, Crusaders assistant coach James Marshall is confident in Jordan returning soon. 

“It’s been a real niggling one with him,” said Marshall.

“It’s obviously an inner-ear, balance thing, and it hasn’t had a timeline on it. He’s been given the all-clear now so it’s just about getting him confident and back to playing rugby.

“I don’t think it’ll be in the next few weeks but hopefully after that bye, we’ve got a bye in three weeks, so hopefully after that bye we’ll be able to see him back on the field, all going well.”

The team doesn’t have a timeline on his return after a six-month layoff. Marshall said Jordan has been “training well” and starting to get back into contact.

A crucial contest in Super Rugby Pacific will see the Blues take on the Chiefs in Hamilton for the ‘Battle of the Bombays’ where some of the aforementioned stars will go head-to-head.

That match gets underway on Saturday at 5.05pm (AEDT) with coverage live, ad-free, and exclusively on Stan Sport.

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