Dan Carter blow for All Blacks title defence

New Zealand stand-off Dan Carter may miss up to a month of the southern hemisphere Rugby Championship after aggravating an old calf injury.

It is a major blow for the All Blacks’ title defence as the 31-year-old, twice IRB World Player of the Year, would have been nailed on as the starter for the tournament opener against Australia in Sydney on Saturday.

Instead, he is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks, coach Steve Hansen revealed.

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Carter’s absence opens the door for Aaron Cruden or Beauden Barrett but will also force Hansen to re-consider his midfield options. The coach named just two midfield specialists in Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith in his 28-man squad, and had expected Carter to provide injury cover at inside centre.

“It will give us plenty of food for thought over the next 24 hours,” Hansen said in Porirua, near Wellington. “It does make us think who will cover 12.”

Carter, who strained his left calf at training on Monday, will miss the return match against the Wallabies at Eden Park on 25 August and would be scrambling to be fit for the All Blacks’ third fixture against Argentina in Wellington on 8 September.