All Blacks coach Graham Henry says senior lock Ali Williams will almost certainly miss the Tri-Nations series because of ongoing problems with his Achilles tendon.
The injury puts a further dampener on an All Blacks squad struggling to muster a fully fit first 15.
The 61-test veteran missed the season-opening Tests against France but was named to play against Italy this weekend before the injury flared again.
He is to see a specialist early next week and Henry says it will be a bonus if he is cleared to play in the Tri-Nations from next month, as surgery seems likely.
Henry says it's very frustrating for Williams and for the team because he's a key player and world class.
It's been a difficult start to the international year for the All Blacks with at least 10 players on their injured roster, including captain Richie McCaw, first-five Dan Carter and wing Sitiveni Sivivatu.