Rugby: All Blacks' midfield stocks take another hit as Anton Lienert-Brown ruled out of start of 2021 season

The All Blacks will be without Anton Lienert-Brown for the start of their 2021 campaign, with the midfielder undergoing elbow surgery on Friday.

Lienert-Brown, 26, had a minor procedure to correct an issue in his elbow, understood to have troubled the 49-test midfielder in the closing weeks of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.

The All Blacks confirm on social media that Lienert-Brown will be unavailable for "several weeks".

His absence comes with the All Blacks midfield stocks already thin. Jack Goodhue has been ruled out for the rest of 2021, after an knee rupture in April, while Ngani Laumape has departed New Zealand for French club Stade Francais.

Rieko Ioane, David Havili and Braydon Ennor loom as the most likely starters in the All Blacks midfield for the first test of the year - against Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium on July 3.

Already tipped to debut as an outside back, Crusaders utility Leicester Fainga'anuku could also be asked to move infield. 

Hurricanes midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen could be another called into the All Blacks ranks, after playing one test in 2020 - against the Wallabies at Eden Park.

Coach Ian Foster will name his 36-man squad for the Pacific tests on Monday, with the All Blacks to also play two tests against Fiji in Hamilton and Dunedin respectively.

Join us on July 3 for live updates of the All Blacks v Tonga test