Kieran Read took over as captain after Richie McCaw retired following the 2015 World Cup triumph

New Zealand captain Kieran Read could be sidelined for up to six weeks after having surgery on a fractured thumb.

The number eight sustained the injury in Canterbury Crusaders’ 48-21 victory over South Africa’s Cheetahs in Super Rugby on Saturday.

The 31-year-old, who has won 97 caps, is expected to lead the All Blacks in their three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

The tour begins on 3 June with the first Test in Auckland on 24 June.

Read left the field just before half-time in Bloemfontein on Saturday and later had surgery on a fracture at the base of his right thumb.

“It is extremely disappointing for Kieran and the All Blacks,” said Crusaders assistant coach Jason Ryan.

“The guy has worked so hard off the field to get his hand right from the surgery he had during the off-season and has been world-class since returning to the field.

“Obviously it’s disappointing and will be concerning for the All Blacks.”

Read also missed the first six rounds of the Super Rugby competition and only returned to action on 14 April following his wrist surgery.

Flanker Jerome Kaino, a two-time World Cup winner, is also expected to be out for four to six weeks after surgery on a meniscus tear, but is likely to be fit for the Lions series.

The Lions, who will be captained by Sam Warburton, start their tour against a New Zealand Barbarians side in Whangarei on 3 June.

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