All Blacks hooker Dane Coles a doubt for British and Irish Lions series
New Zealand hooker Dane Coles could miss the whole of the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions as he struggles with concussion.
The 30-year-old Hurricane - who made a six-man shortlist for the world player of the year award in 2016 - has been sidelined since March and is out of Friday's clash with the Chiefs.
"It's bad news for the All Blacks," said Hurricanes coach John Plumtree.
"It's hard to say whether he'll be available for any of the Tests."
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said in May that he would name Coles in the All Blacks squad for the series to give him as much time as possible to prove his fitness. Hansen will name his 33-man selection on Thursday.
Crusaders' Codie Taylor, who has made three starts in his 15 Test appearances, could step at hooker if Coles fails to recover.
Coles is the most pressing of several injury concerns before the first meeting with the Lions on 24 June.
Full-back Ben Smith is a doubt for the opening Test at least after suffering a concussion at the weekend, while centre Ryan Crotty will have to recover from a rib cartilage injury to take part.
Second row Brodie Retallick is another key All Black to miss the final round of Super Rugby matches with a head knock, however his absence from the Chiefs squad is mainly precautionary.
Captain Kieran Read, who has not played since breaking his thumb in April, and veteran flanker Jerome Kaino, who is yet to return following knee surgery, will both face the Lions short of match practice in the best-case scenario for the hosts.
'The man the All Blacks would miss most'
"Coles would be arguably the heaviest felt defection if he failed to get up for the once-every-12-years extravaganza," wrote Kiwi journalist Marc Hinton in May.
"Partly because of his extraordinary skillset that has rewritten the parameters of the modern hooker; and partly because the next cabs off the rank just don't offer anything resembling the same sort of impact."
"The hits keep coming for the All Blacks," wrote a NZ Herald reporter as they broke news of Retallick's injury.
"The Retallick news is far from what Steve Hansen will have wanted to hear ahead of Thursday's naming of the All Blacks and Maori All Blacks squads in Auckland."