Munster have been dealt a major blow with the news that their new signing Tyler Bleyendaal has suffered a serious neck injury that requires surgery.
The 24-year old was scheduled to arrive in Ireland next month following the completion of Canterbury's season but the New Zealand club have confirmed that the "long-term prognosis of the injury is uncertain until surgery has been completed".
Bleyendaal was signed by the province last May, on a three-year contract to give them an option at out-half as well as inside-centre, but he now faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
"I am working with Munster to plan the rehab process and I'm looking forward to contributing to their campaign once I have fully recovered," the former New Zealand U-20 captain said.
"I would obviously love to be playing this final season out with my team-mates, but I hope to be able to continue to contribute to this team in other ways off the field."
Bleyendaal has missed Canterbury's recent games due to what was initially perceived as a "sore neck" but scans have revealed that he has suffered a prolapsed disc in his neck and will undergo surgery to correct it. Canterbury head coach Scott Robertson admitted that Bleyendaal's injury was a setback for his side but he is hopeful that he will recover in time to feature for Munster in 2015.
"Tyler is such a talented and smart player so losing him for the rest of the season is a big blow.
"Everyone in the team is gutted for Tyler but we are just wishing him the best possible recovery so he can get out on the footy field again soon," Robertson said.