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All Blacks captain Kieran Read is to have back surgery at the weekend and will miss the early rounds of next year's Super Rugby competition.
Read had an injury-plagued 2017 due to thumb and wrist issues and was ruled out of the team's final test against Wales last month with a hip flexor problem.
Super Rugby champions Canterbury said Read had suffered a prolapsed disc while on duty with the All Blacks and would be out of action for up to four months, ruling him out of the competition until about round nine in mid-April.
"Head in for surgery on a disc in my back on Saturday which I injured at the end of the season," Read wrote on his Facebook page.
"Hopefully I don't miss too much of the start of the @superrugby season."
Read joins hooker Dane Coles as long-term injury concerns for the All Blacks.
The Hurricanes captain ruptured knee ligaments against France and is not due back for six months.
The Crusaders open their title defence against the Waikato Chiefs on February 24 in Christchurch.