Samu Kerevi is set to have a minor operation on his right hand on Monday, but the centre is likely to be fit for the Wallabies’ World Cup opener against Georgia in Paris on September 9.
The 29-year-old came off in the 74th minute after breaking his hand during the Wallabies’ heartbreaking 23-20 loss to the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon.
Pictures of him with ice around his right hand only raised alarm bells ahead of Eddie Jones’ World Cup squad announcement on Thursday evening.
But the 45-Test midfielder will all but certainly be named in Jones’ squad, with the Japan-based star only likely to miss up to three weeks.
Nonetheless, the injury is a setback for Kerevi and the Wallabies because the former Queensland Reds captain was still in search of his best form after only recently coming back from an ACL injury suffered in Australia’s Commonwealth Games campaign last August.
While Kerevi returned for Suntory – the same Japanese club Jones is a consultant for – in May, the hulking Fijian-born star was yet to find the form that previously made him one of the most destructive centres in the world.
At his best, Kerevi can dent the line and get his arms free but those characteristics, despite a willingness to get involved, have yet to be on show throughout the opening four Tests of the year.
Nor has it allowed the midfielder to find his feet in defence either, with Kerevi bitting regularly in defence and being burned on a couple of occasions.
That was seen on Saturday in Dunedin, where Will Jordan and Damian McKenzie managed to skip freely past him.
No team can carry multiple players with injuries and Jones is already sweating on the fitness of Len Ikitau, with the outside centre recovering from a broken shoulder.
The 24-year-old injured himself in the process of scoring against Argentina on July 16 and his recovery time was expected to be between 6-8 weeks.
Jones is likely to name no more than four specialist centres in his squad, with Jordan Petaia and Izaia Perese, who came off the bench in Dunedin for Kerevi, also set to be taken to France. Whether room can be found for Lalakai Foketi remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, Jones is sweating on the fitness of prop Taniela Tupou, who missed the Bledisloe return fixture after injuring his ribs in Melbourne.
With Allan Alaalatoa out for the rest of the year following his devastating Achilles injury suffered at the MCG on July 29, the Wallabies will rely heavily on Tupou in France despite Pone Fa’amausili’s encouraging performance in Dunedin.
Hooker Dave Porecki is set to be available for selection despite departing early in the first half after copping a glancing blow to the head.
Fellow rake Jordan Uelese, whose scrummaging strength is valued particularly with the Wallabies’ depth at tight-head prop being tested, meanwhile was a late scratching on Saturday after hurting his knee.
“He’s got an old ACL injury and he’s got a bit in there that sometimes comes out and he talks to his knee to get back in and sometimes it doesn’t come back in,” Jones said following the three-point loss.
Just as intriguing is the state of play surrounding co-captain Michael Hooper’s calf injury.
Hooper, 31, tweaked his calf ahead of the Wallabies’ second Test of the year against Argentina.
While the Wallabies’ most capped captain of all time was confident he would return to face the All Blacks, Jones revealed that it had not responded quick enough following the 38-7 defeat at the MCG.
“No, he’s a long way away, mate,” he said when asked about Hooper’s prognosis.
“I’m saying that he’s got a serious injury and when you’ve got a serious injury there are deadlines and we need to find the deadline.
“When you’ve got a calf injury, sometimes you don’t know how quickly you can recover.
Asked to clarify whether he was at risk of missing the World Cup, Jones was coy.
“I’ll worry about that when we come up to World Cup selection,” he said.