The All Blacks will be without the services of lock Sam Whitelock, flanker Liam Squire, centre Sonny Bill Williams and prop Joe Moody when they face Italy in Rome on Saturday.
The quartet have been declared unavailable for the world champions’ last Test of their end-of-year tour and will return to New Zealand.
Whitelock has been instructed to take a three-month break to recover from minor injuries after experiencing a long and draining season which started with him captaining the Crusaders to a second successive Super Rugby title.
Whitelock’s break means he will miss the first four rounds of the Crusaders’ 2019 Super Rugby campaign.
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen believes Whitelock’s rest period will do him good in the long run.
“I know someone like Sam Whitelock, he is going to have a really good break and we will see a different player because of that,” he told Stuff.