New Zealand have suffered yet another blow ahead of their Test series with England with skipper Simon Mannering forced out with gastric problems.
The Warriors workhorse joins Shaun Johnson, Kieran Foran, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak on the injured list for the three-Test tour next month.
Mannering’s withdrawal leaves the Kiwis severely depleted with Melbourne winger Matt Duffie also not considered due to his impending departure to rugby union while North Queensland enforcer Jason Taumalolo is in doubt because of knee problems.
It leaves coach Stephen Kearney with several selection headaches, particularly in the halves with Manly winger Peta Hiku, Melbourne second-rower Tohu Harris, Brisbane bench utility Kodi Nikorima and Warriors youngster Tuimoala Lolohea touted as the Kiwis’ playmaking options.
Mannering, who has played 41 Tests for New Zealand, took over the captaincy at the 2013 World Cup and led the Kiwis to success in the 2014 Four Nations series and this year’s Anzac Test against Australia.
After a series of medical checks, Mannering has been ruled out with gastric issues that affected him over the closing weeks of the NRL season.
Mannering was named in the Kiwis train-on squad last month but hasn’t taken part in any training sessions.
Warriors head doctor John Mayhew says while tests haven’t revealed anything to cause alarm, Mannering still wasn’t right and needed further assessment.
Kearney said Mannering was very keen to make the tour, and his absence was a huge blow for the team.
“But his long-term health is very important to us, especially with the Four Nations scheduled for next year and, of course, the next World Cup in New Zealand and Australia the following year,” Kearney said.
“He’s our captain and our leader, but we’ll still have a strong leadership team to draw on and his absence this time will give us a chance to develop some other players in that role.”
Over the past three years, 29-year-old Mannering has played 11 of 12 tests for the Kiwis and 71 of 72 games for the Warriors.
The England tour begins on October 23 with a warm-up game against Leeds Rhinos, followed by three Tests scheduled for Hull (November 1), London’s Olympic Stadium (November 7) and Wigan (November 14).