Chiefs suffer double Super Rugby blow

Nepo Laulala has been ruled out for the 2016 Super Rugby season

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has suffered a double blow ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season as new recruits Nepo Laulala and Dominic Bird have both been ruled out for extended periods.

Prop Laulala and lock Bird are both set for lengthy spells on the sidelines after suffering freak injuries in training in recent days.

Laulala will miss the whole of the 2016 Rugby season after tearing three ligaments in his right knee – the ACL, PCL and MCL – on Friday last week.

Bird will be on the sidelines for 10 weeks after fracturing his right foot in a training session on Monday.

Despite the injuries Chiefs coach Dave Rennie remains upbeat about the team’s chances this Super Rugby season.

Rennie said that a couple of players would have to be injured in one position before they could call for a replacement but they were looking at their options just in case.

“Obviously we’re scanning the country, but realistically every team’s got three tighthead props, so that’s 15 gone. So we may have to look at an overseas option,” Rennie told Stuff.

“There’s not an enormous amount around at the moment either. You’ve got a European club competition happening, and the same in France. So really Japan is one competition that has just finished. So we’re just keeping an open mind to it.”

Both players are 24-years-old and had moved from the Crusaders hoping to be able to push for more All Black caps.

Laulala said that he hoped to be able to get back to full fitness so that he can be back playing again.

“It’s obviously very disappointing to have injured my knee and be unable to play for the Chiefs for a while, but I’ll be back real soon,” Laulala said.

“Once I’m through surgery I’ll be working hard to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible so I can get back out on the rugby field. Though I’m unable to play for a little while, I’ll be supporting the boys and doing as much as I can for the team.”

Rennie said that with Laulala having to undergo reconstructive surgery soon and missing a year of rugby he will be a big mental challenge as well as a physical one.

“He’s got a great example here in Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who had a pretty similar injury,” Rennie said.

“What he did to recover was phenomenal. So hopefully Nepo can come back a little bit earlier.

“He’s made a real statement while he’s been here, got himself in great nick. So it’s pretty frustrating. It was a non-contact session and someone’s fallen on him, and it’s the worst possible outcome.”

Lock Bird was unlucky to suffer his injury as Kerr-Barlow landed on his foot in a tackle at training.

“It’s not the start to the season I was hoping for, it’s as frustrating as ever, like any injury,” said Bird.

“I’m looking at 10 weeks of recovery so I’ll be doing what I can to get the rest of my body right in the meantime. I’ll still be chipping in with a lot of line-out stuff with the boys and helping the team however I can.”

Rennie has become used to losing players to injury and says that he will just have to rely on the squad’s depth.

“We’re disappointed,” he said. “But you can’t win a championship on a couple of players, and injuries are going to happen and other guys have got to step up. ”

“So when we contract we look for depth.”

As cover for Bird the Chiefs have Brodie Retallick, second-year Chief Michael Allardice and exciting youngsters in Waikato’s James Tucker and Auckland’s Teleni Seu.

In terms of cover for prop Laulala the Chiefs have Atu Moli, Siate Tokolahi and Siegfried Fisiihoi to back up looseheads Mitchell Graham and Pauliasi Manu.

In other news utility back Andrew Horrell will miss the first six weeks of Super Rugby due to an injury he sustained in the NPC and wing Toni Pulu is in doubt for the start of the season after having surgery in the off-season.

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