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Ian Foster breaks silence on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's All Blacks chances

By Alex McLeod
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

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Ian Foster is excited to see ex-NRL star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s rugby union career kick-off earlier than expected, but an All Blacks call-up for the end-of-year tour is still some way off from a certainty.

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Tuivasa-Sheck made headlines last week when he was granted an early release from his contract with the Warriors in the wake of the New Zealand Government’s decision to pause its travel bubble with Australia for eight weeks.

The Warriors have been based in Australia for the past two seasons in a bid to keep the NRL alive amid the volatile COVID-19 climate.

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However, with only five rounds remaining in the current NRL season, the lengthy travel pause forced Tuivasa-Sheck to weigh up his options before opting to return to New Zealand to play for Auckland in this year’s NPC to help prepare him for next year’s Super Rugby season with the Blues.

The 2018 Dally M Medallist’s decision to come to New Zealand rugby earlier than anticipated excites Foster, who revealed he has held numerous talks with Tuivasa-Sheck.

“We’ve had a number of talks with Roger. The fact he’s been able to come back early I think is great for him, and it’s a massive kudos to the Warriors as an organisation for what they’ve done for him,” Foster said on Monday.

“They’ve given him a chance to have a run into the campaign, and so, first and foremost, I think it’s a fantastic gesture from them and I’m sure Roger greatly appreciates it.”

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Foster’s excitement over the cross-code star doesn’t translate to a guaranteed place in the All Blacks’ end-of-year tour of the United States, United Kingdom and Europe, though.

The All Blacks are scheduled to play the USA, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy in successive weeks throughout October and November, but Foster is waiting to see how Tuivasa-Sheck fares in New Zealand provincial rugby before bringing him into the selection frame.

“It’s not a serious consideration for us at this stage,” Foster said when asked of the 28-year-old’s selection chances later this year.

However, Foster has full faith that Tuivasa-Sheck and Auckland head coach Alama Ieremia have a plan in place to help the 2013 NRL Premiership winner learn the nuances of rugby union and flourish in the NPC.

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“What do we expect out of him? We just expect him to go out there and put a smile on his face and learn something new.

“It’s quite stimulating learning something new and he’s motivated and I’m sure, with him and Alama, they’ll work on a really good plan and we’ll just keep an eye on him.”

Just where Tuivasa-Sheck will slot into the Auckland backline remains to be seen, but former dual-code legend Sonny Bill Williams believes his former Sydney Roosters teammate would be best utilised on the wing upon his induction into rugby union.

“I think he’ll play wing in the early stages of his transition,” Williams, a 58-test All Black and 12-test Kiwi, told Channel Nine last week.

“For me, it’s not a case of will he make it to the All Blacks or will he thrive in the game of 15, it’s a question of how long it’ll take.

“We’ve got to remember that he grew up as a rugby player and league boys poached him from the game of rugby and brought him across, so he shouldn’t have too much problems transitioning back.”

The 2021 NPC season kicks-off this weekend, with Auckland scheduled to begin their campaign against Canterbury at Eden Park on Sunday.

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Ian Foster breaks silence on Roger Tuivasa-Sheck's All Blacks chances

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