Rugby-Whitelock, Reece injury blows for Crusaders ahead of Brumbies clash

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup 2019 - Pool B - New Zealand v Namibia - Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - October 6, 2019 New Zealand's Sam Whitelock in action with Namibia's AJ de Klerk REUTERS/Issei Kato

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Reigning champions the Canterbury Crusaders have been hit by injuries to totemic lock Sam Whitelock and prolific winger Sevu Reece ahead of Friday's Super Rugby Pacific clash with the unbeaten ACT Brumbies.

Scott Robertson, who was announced as the next All Blacks coach on Tuesday, was already without injured test players David Havili, Jack Goodhue, Will Jordan and Cullen Grace for the Christchurch meeting with the Canberra-based side.

Whitelock broke his hand in last weekend's victory over the Auckland Blues in a rematch of the 2022 Super Rugby final, while Reece sustained a serious knee injury that could sideline him for the season.

Robertson told local media that he would have a clearer idea of how long the two All Blacks would be out of action later in the week.

"It's been a hell of a run, but next man will step up," he added.

Zach Gallagher will partner captain Scott Barrett in the second row in place of Whitelock, while Pepesana Patafilo will replace Reece on the right wing after making his debut off the bench last week against the Blues.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has left out a slew of test players for the trip across the Tasman Sea with James Slipper, Rob Valetini, Pete Samu, Nic White and Tom Wright all absent under Rugby Australia's World Cup resting policy.

"We've had to rotate in a few areas, but we've backed our depth and our connection as a squad from the start and every player who gets on the plane knows the responsibility that comes with the jersey," Larkham said in a news release.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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