All Blacks prop Tony Woodcock is looking increasingly likely to need surgery on his shoulder that will end his season, said coach Steve Hansen.
The 110-cap Woodcock was named in the All Blacks' squad for the southern hemisphere's Rugby Championship on Monday with the caveat that he would miss the start of the tournament as the extent of his shoulder injury is examined.
Woodcock was a spectator at the All Blacks training camp in Auckland on Thursday when Hansen told local media that a decision should be known in the next week as to whether the 33-year-old's season was over, though he indicated it was looking more likely he would need surgery.
"His shoulder is pretty loose, so we'll see what happens over the next seven days, then make a decision from there," Hansen said.
"There's no point mucking around - if it's not going to be right we might as well get it operated on. He'll get his first pre-season of note for 12 years, so there are some positives in it."
Woodcock, who is one of the more destructive scrummagers in world rugby, is key to Hansen's plans for the defence of their World Cup title in England next year and the coach said an enforced absence now could actually be beneficial.
"Whenever you get something that's disappointing, you've got to look for the positives," Hansen added.
"The positives are he'll get six or seven months before he has to play again. When you've been on the circuit as long as he has, that's valuable time.
"We'll fresh him up and get a revitalised Tony Woodcock."
Uncapped Joe Moody was called into the squad as cover for Woodcock, though the more experienced Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks were also named and should take the lion's share of loosehead prop duties during the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks open their title defence against Australia in Sydney on 16 August.