The All Blacks may be forced to shelve plans to give their new midfield pairing an extended run on the year-end tour.
The centre partnership of Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison could be shortlived, after scans revealed Smith has a small fracture to his cheekbone.
To add to the All Blacks' woes ahead of their Test against Italy on Saturday, assistant coach Ian Foster says Ellison has ligament damage to his toe, "quite an unusual injury".
Both injuries were suffered in the All Blacks' bruising 51-22 squashing of Scotland in Edinburgh last week.
Smith's versatility and ability to cover a number of backline positions will no doubt be missed when the side is named on Thursday.
"We're not sure at this stage whether or not he's going to play on this tour, but we're going to give ourselves two or three days to see if it settles down," Foster said.
He said there were no immediate thoughts of a replacement.
"We just really want to give us a couple of days...
"Tamati's is a little bit on how it's going to settle down, and Ben's is the type of injury that is possible to play with, but we just want to get the right advice."
There was one thing for sure: "They will both be out this week."
The All Blacks still have options to cover backline positions. Dan Carter could shift to second five, Beauden Barrett and Cory Jane can both slot into fullback and Ma'a Nonu could go to the wing if needed.
Source: NZ Newswire
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