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Ian Foster among four All Blacks squad members struck by Covid ahead of Ireland test

By Alex McLeod
AAP Image/Dave Hunt/ www.photosport.nz

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The All Blacks have been forced to call a player into their squad less than a week out from their first test against Ireland after two players and two coaches tested positive for Covid-19.

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Four-test Crusaders utility back Braydon Ennor has been brought into the team after his Super Rugby Pacific teammates David Havili and Jack Goodhue both tested positive for the virus.

Neither Havili nor Goodhue are with the team in Auckland, but their absences leave the All Blacks short-stocked on midfield options ahead of Saturday’s season-opening clash against Ireland at Eden Park.

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That has paved the way for Ennor’s call-up after he was excluded from the initial 36-man to face the Irish despite having been part of the All Blacks set-up last year.

The 24-year-old now finds himself in selection contention alongside fellow midfielders Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea and the uncapped Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Head coach Ian Foster and assistant coach John Plumtree have also tested positive, and they are both now isolating at home.

According to a statement posted on social media on Monday, Foster said “it’s extremely disappointing” to have contracted Covid, but “was very confident in the team’s ability to carry on preparing for the first test”.

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With Foster and Plumtree both out of action, the All Blacks are without their two most senior coaches for their first test of the year.

As such, the team’s other assistants – attack coach Brad Mooar, defence coach Scott McLeod and scrum coach Greg Feek – will assume responsibility for the day-to-day preparations leading up to and during this weekend’s test.

Newly-appointed skills and scrum consultants Andrew Strawbridge and Mike Cron, as well as soon-to-depart selector Grant Fox, may also take on more significant roles in the absence of Foster and Plumtree.

“We’ve had a plan for this happening, and it’s a great opportunity for the wider coaching group and the senior players, who will be highly motivated to step up,” Foster said.

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“We have learned how to cope with the unexpected, like everyone has over the past couple of years. I will still be working alongside the coaches and team via Zoom and I have huge faith in the coaching group and the players.

“We have structures in place and everyone is working together.” 

Under New Zealand’s Covid regulations, Havili, Goodhue, Foster and Plumtree will all isolate at home for seven days, meaning they should return to the All Blacks squad next week.

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