Crusaders mired in prop crisis as Moody’s Super season done

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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – 2018 Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship – Australia v New Zealand – Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand – August 25, 2018 – New Zealand’s Joe Moody celebrates with teammates after scoring a try. REUTERS/Ross Setford

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – All Blacks prop Joe Moody has been ruled out of the rest of the Canterbury Crusaders’ Super Rugby Pacific title defence following surgery to repair an ankle tendon but he is expected to be available for World Cup selection.

Moody, injured during the victory over the Auckland Blues two weeks ago, may be sidelined for eight weeks, the Crusaders said on Thursday, which would mean missing most, if not all, of the truncated Rugby Championship starting on July 8.

The loosehead’s injury adds to the Crusaders’ issues with front row forwards as fellow All Blacks Fletcher Newell and George Bower are also on the sidelines.

Bower has been ruled out of the entire international season, but Newell may be fit for the Rugby Championship.

The Crusaders, second behind the Waikato Chiefs with two rounds left before the post-season finals, have only two fit props left on their roster, leaving staff scrambling for replacements.

Kershawl Sykes-Martin replaces Moody in the starting front row for Saturday’s home match against the sixth-placed New South Wales Waratahs as the Crusaders seek to lock down a top-two spot to enjoy home advantage through to at least the semi-finals.

Former Chiefs prop Reuben O’Neill has been named in the reserves after joining the team as injury cover.

Head coach Scott Robertson said another prop would soon join them.

“I can’t tell you who it is because he hasn’t arrived or anything, we haven’t signed it off,” he told New Zealand media.

“It’s incredible, we’ve worked real hard to find who is available in propping stocks … I’ve been talking to a lot of agents, they are a rare breed.”

The Crusaders will otherwise welcome back a slew of All Blacks who were rested for the 41-7 thumping of Moana Pasifika, including flyhalf Richie Mo’unga and hooker Codie Taylor, who will captain the side.

Veteran All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock returns to the starting side after recovering from an Achilles injury.