Lions tour: Aaron Cruden, Kieran Read to miss All Blacks' match against Samoa
All Blacks stalwarts Kieran Read and Aaron Cruden will play no part in the side's pre-British and Irish Lions hit-out against Samoa on Friday, but Jerome Kaino is a near certainty to run out at Eden Park.
In what's shaping up as the world champions' sole chance to blow out the cobwebs before the first Lions Test on June 24, both Cruden and skipper Read will be held over for the Samoa match, with one eye on larger challenges ahead.
Read has been battling a broken thumb since late April, while back-up No.10 Cruden suffered medial ligament damage while on Chiefs duty on Friday.
Both will be fine for the first Lions Test in Auckland.
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen backed his 97-Test captain to produce his best in the first Test, despite his lack of Super Rugby game time.
"Our last skipper (Richie McCaw) used to be able to do it, and this one's got similar mental fortitude and strength of character," Hansen said.
"He's in good physical nick, he's fortunate the injury is on the thumb - you don't have to run on your thumb, (just) catch and pass."
Despite what appears a substantial injury list heading into the Lions tour, Hansen was optimistic most of his troops would be fine by June 24.
Both vice-skipper Ben Smith and lock Brodie Retallick will be fit to take on Samoa, as will brothers Scott and Beauden Barrett and veteran Kaino.
In-form midfielder Ryan Crotty is a touch-and-go proposition after damaging rib cartilage last week, with Hansen and the All Blacks set to err on the side of caution, while flanker Liam Squire will be fit for the second Test.
The picture is less rosy for hooker Dane Coles, who is now a certainty to miss the first Lions Test with ongoing concussion symptoms.
Crusaders rake Codie Taylor will likely take his place in the No.2 jumper.
"He's doing controlled training, which is a step further than he was a couple weeks ago - he's coming along nicely but it's just one of those injuries you can't rush and, God willing, he'll come right quickly," Hansen said.