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Howlett Ruled Out For Month
16/06/2004 08:49 AM
Marc Hinton
Star All Blacks wing Doug Howlett will need at least a month to recover from his shoulder injury, while tests today will confirm whether openside flanker and vice-captain Richie McCaw will join him on the sideline.

Howlett was ruled out of the All Blacks team to face England in the second Philips Series test at Eden Park on Saturday night and a visit to a specialist has confirmed suspicions that the shoulder displacement injury he incurred in Dunedin last weekend will need some recovery time.

The diagnosis from tests conducted in Auckland on Tuesday was that Howlett will need at least a month to recover from the shoulder injury, with muscle and ligament damage around Howlett's left shoulder needing time to heal.

The winger suffered the displacement midway through the first half in Dunedin and played on after the shoulder was returned to its socket.

All Blacks team doctor Graham Paterson was confident Howlett would make a full recovery with a month's rest and team management will timetable a return for the in-form winger for the Tri Nations test against Australia in Wellington on July 17.

McCaw's situation is not so clear. He is to undergo further tests today to clear him of any damage after the world-class No 7 began getting headaches following last weekend's 36-3 win over England.

The Crusaders flanker passed psychometric tests conducted on Tuesday but the team medical staff are concerned about lingering symptoms and want to further assess him today to be sure he is fit to play. McCaw has been bracketed with Marty Holah in the All Blacks starting XV, with Craig Newby poised to come on to the bench if a change is needed.

The Howlett injury will be causing the most concern in the All Blacks camp, particularly with the dearth of quality wingers in the New Zealand game at present.

Henry is still waiting on Chiefs flyer Sitiveni Sivivatu to complete his IRB-imposed stand-down period and with Caleb Ralph apparently out of favour there are few long-term options for the selectors.

The short-term fix for Saturday has been to move fullback Mils Muliaina on to the right wing and bring talented North Harbour utility Nick Evans in at fullback. However, at 23 and with 16 minutes of test football under his belt, Evans has yet to prove himself as a test quality fullback.

Saturday night's test against a fired-up England side is sure to give a better indication of that.

Henry admitted at the team announcement press conference that the All Blacks would " be in some disarray" if there was a further injury to one of the back three, with the only option to move Carlos Spencer back to fullback.