Vatuvei ruled out of England tour with New Zealand

New Zealand have suffered another major injury blow ahead of their end-of-season tour to England with the loss of blockbusting winger Manu Vatuvei.

The 29-year-old New Zealand Warrior will undergo surgery later this week to repair the damage to his shoulder he sustained against Canberra on June 27 and will be sidelined for five months.

Vatuvei was initially expected to be out for just over a month and he returned against Cronulla on August 1 but hurt the same shoulder playing against St George Illawarra a week later.

The Kiwis usually have plenty of cover for the wing but Vatuvei’s absence is the latest blow for coach Stephen Kearney as he tries to hold onto his country”s new-found status as the number one team in the world.

Penrith’s Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who has been the victim of a freak injury and a suspension on the previous two times he came close to making his Kiwis debut, is still out for an indefinite time with a collapsed lung and the experienced Jason Nightingale is also out for an indefinite period with an ankle injury.

It means Cronulla’s Sosaia Feki and Manly Sea Eagles’ Peta Hiku could be the starting wingers in the three-match Test series against England and it could open the door for Melbourne winger Matt Duffie, whose only previous appearance in the black jersey was in 2011.

Vatuvei is the latest player to be ruled out of contention for the tour, which begins with a warm-up match against Leeds on October 23 before the first Test in Hull on November 1.

Already gone are former Wigan hooker or half-back Thomas Leuluai and stand-off Shaun Johnson with respective knee and ankle injuries, while the Panthers have said that centre Dean Whare will not again for them this year because of a broken thumb.

Kearney will name his squad of 23 or 24 players soon after the NRL Grand Final on October 4.