All Blacks announce captain-less squad for third Bledisloe Cup test
The All Blacks have announced a 35-man squad for the first leg of their mammoth upcoming world tour, with a few key players absent from the initial travelling group.
Captain Sam Whitelock, halfback Aaron Smith, first five Richie Mo’unga and hooker Dane Coles will all miss the trip over to Perth, as will loose forward Shannon Frizell. The former three’s partners are all expecting children in the coming weeks while Coles’ absence is a product of his recent injury woes. Frizell is unable to travel at present due to visa issues stemming from his assault charges.
While Foster and his coaches have already selected a captain for the upcoming match with Australia, who that is won’t be revealed to the team or to the public until the squad have a chance to regroup in Australia.
“We’ll be playing ten tests in 12 weeks in both the southern and northern hemispheres, and with Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, this will be a tour like no other for us in the professional era,” said head coach Ian Foster. “We can’t wait to get underway and once again represent our country on the world stage.”
Foster confirmed on Thursday afternoon that while the All Blacks would have the opportunity to bring further players over to Australia throughout the Rugby Championship, all going to plan, those players will need to undertake two weeks of managed quarantine in Queensland before they’re able to join the squad. As such, the likes of Mo’unga and Whitelock could be set to miss three matches, depending on when their children arrive.
“Unfortunately we can’t really crystal ball-gaze,” said Foster.
“We don’t want to put any expectation or pressure on family, they’ve got to do what they have to do and there’s nothing we can do about that. We can’t do anything about the quarantining at the moment. At the moment it’s two weeks of hard quarantining. Whatever time it is when babies arrive, add another two weeks and maybe another week on top of that to get them conditioned. [It’s] pretty extraordinary times.”
Foster would have preferred for the likes of Joe Moody and Ofa Tuunagasi, who were both under injury clouds, to have played NPC rugby before joining the squad in Australia but with NZ’s provincial competition off the cards for the foreseeable future, while the country remains in lockdown, it made sense to take the two props over to Australia today.
“They’re both treading well,” Foster said. “Joe’s a week ahead of Ofa. We were hoping that Joe would be able to play NPC this weekend and get 40 minutes for Canterbury, and then after that, progress through to maybe a couple of weeks away from the test programme.
“You could maybe look at that [first] Argentina game for Joe and Ofa, maybe a week behind that.”
The All Blacks take on the Wallabies in Perth next weekend before tackling Argentina and the Springboks in two tests each.
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Codie Taylor.
Props: George Bower, Ethan de Groot, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu and Tupou Vaa’i.
Loose forwards: Ethan Blackadder, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, TJ Perenara and Brad Weber.
First five–eighths: Beauden Barrett.
Midfielders: Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown and Quinn Tupaea.
Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie and Sevu Reece.
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