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All Blacks star Will Jordan 'only a chance for the third test' against Ireland

By Alex McLeod
(Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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All Blacks captain Sam Cane says young star Will Jordan isn’t likely to feature until the third test of New Zealand’s upcoming series against Ireland following his Covid diagnosis.

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Jordan was ruled out of this Saturday’s series-opener against the Irish in Auckland after he became the sixth member of the All Blacks camp to test positive for the virus on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old starlet joins midfielders David Havili and Jack Goodhue, as well as coaches Ian Foster, John Plumtree and Scott McLeod, in isolation ahead of the highly-anticipated at Eden Park after they all contracted Covid over the past few days.

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Their absences leave the All Blacks short-stocked on players and coaches, forcing them to call four-test utility back Braydon Ennor and soon-to-be national selector, and former Ireland boss, Joe Schmidt into their set-up.

Regardless of who they call into their camp, the loss of Jordan will be hard-felt by the All Blacks given the game-breaking qualities that made him 2021 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year.

Like his Covid-infected colleagues, Jordan will be required to undergo a seven-day isolation period, as per New Zealand’s Covid protocols, which will theoretically make him available for the second test against Ireland in Dunedin next week.

However, Cane told media on Tuesday that Jordan won’t “realistically” be ready for All Blacks selection until the final test of the series in Wellington on July 16.

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“Obviously not chatting to him because he’s in his room,” Cane joked when asked if he had been in contact with Jordan since his Covid diagnosis.

“To be honest, it’s terrible timing for everyone who’s got Covid, but we feel for him.

“Haven’t had a chance to chat, we only just found out this morning, had meetings and straight to training.

“We’ve talked about before, there’s a lot of depth and competition for places. I don’t know if [Jordan] was going to be starting or not, but I’d say he was a pretty good chance, but it just means someone else will step up in his place.

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“Hopefully Covid doesn’t knock him around too much and, realistically, he’s probably only a chance for the third test.”

Losing a player of Jordan’s influence for the majority of the test series would be a significant blow for the All Blacks as they look to reassert their dominance over an Ireland side that has gotten the better of their Kiwi counterparts in recent years.

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In saying that, though, the temporary addition of Schmidt to the coaching group in the absence of Foster, Plumtree and McLeod should go some way to offsetting Jordan’s unavailability.

Formerly the head coach of Ireland between 2013 and 2019, Schmidt guided the Irish to their first-ever win over the All Blacks in 2016, when they ended a 111-year winless drought against New Zealand with a 40-29 victory in Chicago.

Two years later, Schmidt masterminded Ireland’s maiden victory over the All Blacks on home soil in an impressive 16-9 victory in Dublin.

Replaced by his assistant Andy Farrell following Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of the All Blacks in 2019, Schmidt watched on as his former side beat New Zealand for a third time in five tests last November.

In the immediate aftermath of that 29-20 defeat at Aviva Stadium, the All Blacks hired Schmidt as a national selector to replace long-serving occupant Grant Fox.

Schmidt’s appointment brought with it plenty of intrigue and anticipation, but the 2018 World Rugby Coach of the Year wasn’t expected to join the All Blacks until after New Zealand’s test series against Ireland.

The recent Covid outbreak within the All Blacks camp has changed those circumstances, though, as a lack of coaches available on the ground has resulted in Schmidt being fast-tracked into the national side just days out from their clash against his old team.

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Equipped with vast intel and knowledge of how Ireland operate, many view the premature arrival of Schmidt as a huge acquisition for the All Blacks.

While Cane agreed with that sentiment when asked about Schmidt’s influence in his first day on the job, the New Zealand skipper also downplayed the impact Schmidt has had in his limited involvement with the All Blacks.

“How lucky are to be able to call on someone like Joe Schmidt. It’s been awesome,” Cane said.

“To be honest, he’s only just been in this morning, and he’ll only be in Tuesday and Thursday to help out on the training park. He’s helping out with defence predominantly, but it’s nice to have some wise eyes looking over things.

“He was predominantly helping out the backs this morning, so, to be honest, I haven’t actually worked with him on the training park.

“I think we’ve got our structures and our things in place which is Scott McLeod, defence coach, his set-up, and we can’t imagine Joe Schmidt’s going to come in and change anything about that.

“He’s just about lending another pair of eyes and chipping in and being able to coach on the run at trainings and give instant feedback to players, but nothing that’s sort of new.”

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