Chiefs lose All Blacks prop for the year

Date published: January 19 2016

Nepo Laulala has been dealt a crushing blow on the verge of the Super Rugby season after the Chiefs tighthead prop was ruled out for 2016.

Laulala, who has four Test caps, tore his ACL, PCL and MCL ligaments in his right knee during training on Friday.

The 24-year-old is now set for knee reconstruction surgery which will rule him out for 12 months.

A similar injury to the one suffered by former South Africa captain Jean de Villiers in November 2014, Laulala is naturally devastated to have been ruled out for so long so close to the start of the new season.

"Once I'm through surgery, I'll be working hard to get back to full fitness as quickly as possible so I can get back out on the rugby field," he told TVNZ.

Laulala's injury at such a crucial time has led head coach Dave Rennie and the Chiefs to look abroad for a replacement, possibly coming from Japan following the conclusion of the Top League season.

"Really Japan is one competition that has just finished so we are just keeping an open mind to it," Rennie told NE News.

"Obviously we are looking locally too and we had a couple of young fellas in this morning. We are not going to panic about it we have got good depth at the moment but we need to make sure if we lost one of those guys we will be under a little bit of pressure.

"Hence the reason our preference is to get a little bit of experience.

"It's disappointing Nepo has worked really hard and he has obviously come up here for an opportunity to play regular game time. He has made a real statement while he has been here; he got himself into great knick so it's pretty frustrating."

The Chiefs have been hit by another setback with the news that new signing Dominic Bird will miss the first ten weeks of the season with a foot injury.

"Though I'm unable to play for a little while, I'll be supporting the boys and doing as much as I can for the team," Bird said.

"It's not the start to the season I was hoping for, it's as frustrating as ever, like any injury.

"I'm looking at ten weeks of recovery so I'll be doing what I can to get the rest of my body right in the meantime. I'll still be chipping in with a lot of line-out stuff with the boys and helping the team however I can."