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Saili foot injury hobbles Blues

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Sportal.co.nz     24 Feb 2014     Getty Images

Coach John Kirwan could only wonder at the number of injuries affecting his squad when they assembled at their Mt Albert training base on Monday.

Saili had been carrying the injury and attempting to play through it, but felt it quite sore about five minutes before the Blues' opening game loss against the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Saturday.

He did play on and scored a fine individual try but did not earn many marks from the management team for failing to disclose his injury earlier.

Kirwan said a final X-ray was still required to fully assess Saili's injury but he was 95 percent certain Saili would not be playing against the Crusaders on Friday at Eden Park.

There was stress on a bone in his foot and even if it wasn't a stress fracture, it soon could be if they continued to play him, Kirwan said.

While he understood Saili's motivations about attempting to play through the injury without advising anyone, Kirwan said jokingly if he did it again he would be smashing his foot with a sledgehammer.

Others on the injury bench were captain and flanker Luke Braid with an ankle strain, flanker Steven Luatua who has an ankle injury, fullback Charles Piutau, who has a knee injury and lock Patrick Tuipulotu with an ankle injury.

Braid was doubtful for Friday but he would be given every opportunity to come through. If he couldn't play Brendan O'Connor would play open-side flanker. That decision would be made on Thursday, Kirwan said.

They would not be looking to move Piutau to centre at this stage. It was on the books but it was likely to be later in the season.

"We want to see him there eventually and I think he will be a good option there. He will end up there but we don't know when," he said.

Options at centre would be covered by wing George Moala, who moved there during the Highlanders game when Benji Marshall went to fullback, with Piutau going to the wing, Jackson Willison and Pita Ahki, who returned from injury on Monday.

All Blacks second five-eighths Ma'a Nonu was not ready to be considered. He had only just started running with the side, and was only the slimmest of possibilities to go to South Africa for the second game.

He was more likely to be ready for the first home game against the Cheetahs, Kirwan said. That should also be the first outing for former All Black Jerome Kaino who will rejoin the side on Thursday or Friday after completing his Japan contract.

Marshall would continue to come off the bench and Kirwan was delighted with the spark he brought to the side, and that was exactly the sort of thing he needed to continue to do.

"I think we'll see the best of Benji starting off the bench and when he's ready we'll put him in there either starting at fullback bringing Charles [Piutau] up or we'll give him a crack at 10," he said.

On the loss to the Highlanders Kirwan said the Blues had started their season at half-time, but that was too late.