All Blacks duo in doubt
All Blacks centres Ben Smith and Tamati Ellison's new midfield partnership is in danger of being shortlived due to injuries to the duo.
Scans at a Rome hospital have revealed that Smith has a small fracture to his cheekbone while All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster confirmed Ellison has ligament damage to his toe, referring to it as "quite an unusual injury".
Smith and Ellison played together as a centre pairing for the first time in New Zealand's 51-22 victory over Scotland at Murrayfield last weekend and both injuries were sustained during that match.
Although the All Blacks coaching staff did not intend to play the Highlanders duo in midfield for two consecutive matches, Smith's utility value will be missed when the side for this weekend's Test against Italy is named on Thursday.
"We're not sure at this stage whether or not he's going to play on this tour, but we're going to give ourselves two or three days to see if it settles down," said Foster, who added that they haven't thought about finding a replacement yet.
"We just really want to give us a couple of days," he said.
"Tamati's is a little bit on how it's going to settle down, and Ben's is the type of injury that is possible to play with, but we just want to get the right advice."