The All Blacks have confirmed the three players who will leave their 38-man Tri Nations squad to return to New Zealand on Monday.
Suspended prop Ofa Tuungafasi, uncapped flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi and one-test midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen will all depart the camp in Australia, just two days after the All Blacks were defeated 25-15 by Argentina in an shock result.
Unable to play until the opening round of next year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa opener due to a three-week suspension for a red card picked up in Bledisloe IV, Tuungafasi’s departure was expected when All Blacks coach Ian Foster announced the move last week.
The 28-year-old was sent off for a high-tackle on Wallabies wing Tom Wright, and is unable to play any meaningful game of rugby up to and including February 20, a week before the Blues’ first match of the year against the Hurricanes in Wellington.
Umaga-Jensen joined the national squad as a replacement player following Braydon Ennor’s season-ending knee injury sustained during the North vs South game, and went on to make his test debut off the bench against Australia in Bledisloe II.
Kirifi, meanwhile, was added to the touring party last month as extra cover in the loose forwards, but did not feature in any matches.
“Because of the unique challenges of the tournament, with a number of test matches over consecutive weeks and the ever-changing world of Covid-19 quarantining, we brought a bigger squad than normal to Australia,” Foster said in a statement.
“But we had always intended to send a few players back at this stage of the tournament, based on whether or not we had injuries.
“The advantage for the three players heading home is that they will get an extra two weeks of pre-season training and return to their Super Rugby clubs early. It also means we aren’t compromising our own preparation in the build-up for what will be a very important final test of the year for us.”
The All Blacks have a bye week before facing the Pumas in a rematch that acts as their final test of the year in Newcastle on November 28.
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