The injury-ravaged All Blacks have suffered another blow ahead of their Tri-Nations title defence, with lock Ali Williams ruled out for the season with an Achilles injury.
Williams, a late withdrawal before New Zealand's scratchy 27-6 win over Italy last week, joins centre Richard Kahui, who suffered a serious shoulder injury at a training camp last month, on the sidelines for the rest of the season.
First five Dan Carter's also not expected back for the All Blacks until their end of season tour in November after he ruptured his Achilles while playing club rugby in France.
A number of other players are in doubt for the All Blacks clash with Australia in a couple of weeks, with shoulder injuries to wingers Rudi Wulf and Sitiveni Sivivatu, and a hand injury to loose forward Adam Thomson.
Williams' absence may leave the door open for rookie Isaac Ross, who has impressed with his athletic ability and work in the lineout in the tests against France and Italy, to cement his place in the squad.