A hamstring injury means Nehe Milner-Skudder’s long wait to return to Super Rugby with the Hurricanes continues.
All Blacks winger Milner-Skudder wasn’t among the 25 players who boarded a flight to Tokyo for Saturday’s opening-round match against the Sunwolves.
The absence of Milner-Skudder, whose 2016 season was wiped out by a shoulder injury, is likely to result in a debut at fullback for uncapped 20-year-old Jordie Barrett.
The defending champions will also be without prop Loni Uhila (calf), heaping pressure on their loosehead side of the scrum.
With first-choice No.1 Reggie Goodes still recovering from a head knock, veteran Ben May is set to start in the front row.
Coach Chris Boyd says the pair could well be fit for their first home match a week later, against the Melbourne Rebels.
“If we had been playing at home they may have been considered but to sit on a long haul flight with a muscle injury like that was probably not a great idea,” Boyd said.
“It’s a long season, so we decided the prudent move was to leave them at home and get them 100 per cent right.”
Captain Dane Coles, who missed all the pre-season games, is in the squad, alongside fellow-All Blacks TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Ardie Savea and older brother Julian Savea.
Four uncapped Hurricanes have made the trip: utility back Jordie Barrett, loose forward Reed Prinsep, lock James Blackwell, and hooker James O’Reilly.
Former New Zealand under-20 forward O’Reilly is the squad’s third hooker after Leni Apisai succumbed to a hamstring niggle.
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