Test forward Ned Hanigan will miss the rest of the Waratahs' matches before the June break and at least the first Ireland Test after a dubious clean-out in the side's two-point loss to the Crusaders last week.
Hanigan was cleaned out from the side by All Blacks second rower Scott Barrett in the 52nd minute of the Crusaders' staggering comeback win against the Waratahs in Christchurch on Saturday.
Hanigan over the ball in the 52nd minute and Barrett on the opposite side of the ruck.
NSW were in front 29-19 and Hanigan was over the ball when Barrett appeared to charge in from the side and hit the Waratahs' No.6 with his right shoulder.
Barrett left his feet and had his right arm tucked as he went in for the clean-out.
The word from the Waratahs was "a couple of weeks" on Monday but further examinations appear to have ruled out Hanigan from the crucial next three Super Rugby matches and at least the first Wallabies Test against Ireland.
"He [Hanigan] got cleaned out from the side just twisted his knee a bit, he's pretty tender and in a brace coming back from New Zealand," Waratahs attack coach Chris Malone said.
The opposite angle shows the impact on Hanigan’s right knee.
The medial-ligament injury is bad news for state and country. Hanigan provides the Waratahs with solid second row cover, while the Wallabies are short on depth at blindside flanker.
The injury will also rub further salt into the wounds on this side of the ditch after a controversial performance from New Zealand referee Ben O'Keeffe.
O'Keeffe was standing on Barrett's side of the ruck but did not see the incident and the citing commissioner did not refer it to the foul play review committee in the aftermath, as he did for Joe Moody's off-the-ball shot on NSW No.12 Kurtley Beale.
Moody was handed a two-match ban for the elbow to Beale's throat, which knocked him out of the defensive line and allowed the All Blacks prop to score under the posts after taking the final pass.
Banned: Joe Moody’s raised forearm on Kurtley Beale has seen him suspended.
The SANZAAR judiciary took into account Moody's "excellent judicial record, good character and guilty plea" to reduce the ban from four weeks to two.
In the only similar incident of foul play this season, the Brumbies' Chance Peni was whacked with five weeks on account of two prior suspensions in the past year, plus an "aggravating factor".
The Waratahs were counting the cost of their New Zealand trip, with Rob Simmons in doubt with a shoulder niggle, and hooker Damien Fitzpatrick and back-rower Will Miller both following concussion protocols.
Assistant coach Chris Malone said he was hopeful all three would recover in time to be named to face the Highlanders at Allianz Stadium this weekend. He was upbeat about the Waratahs' progress, focusing on the 30-minute period in Christchurch in which NSW tallied 29 unanswered points.
"A lot of the commentary afterwards was about us letting such a good lead slip, but one thing I would say was in order to put ourselves in that position, there was some of the best footy that we played in a long time," he said.
"The reality of the last two weeks is we had plenty of opportunities to beat both the Blues and Crusaders and that's the disappointing thing. Some of the things we have displayed in those games were some of the things we were criticised for not displaying last year … the physicality we brought to the game, in going across there and showing what this NSW team is all about.
"We didn't control the ball as well as we would have liked in terms of field position after the first 35 minutes so there things we need to look at. We had such a good start but now how do we put the final nail in the coffin."
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