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Ian Foster reveals the contenders that could fill Ardie Savea's spot at the back of the scrum next weekend

By Online Editors
Hoskins Sotutu tackles Tom Banks. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Following the birth of his second child, All Blacks No. 8 Ardie Savea has remained in New Zealand while the rest of the squad have travelled to Australia in preparation for next weekend’s Bledisloe Cup clash.

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Savea has started both of the All Blacks’ tests at the back of the scrum, alongside Sam Cane and Shannon Frizell and will miss the upcoming match – which opens the door for a rookie to fill his boots for the fixture.

Blues No. 8 Hoskins Sotutu came off the bench in the previous two matches and looms as the likely first-choice to partner Cane and Frizell, but head coach Ian Foster has revealed that’s Sotutu’s inclusion is not an open and shut case.

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Ross Karl asks panelists James Parsons and Bryn Hall who they felt were their top performers in the 27-7 victory for the All Blacks over the Wallabies at Eden Park on the 18th of October 2020.

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Ross Karl asks panelists James Parsons and Bryn Hall who they felt were their top performers in the 27-7 victory for the All Blacks over the Wallabies at Eden Park on the 18th of October 2020.

“He’s done the job that we’ve given him really, really well,” Foster said to media at Auckland Airport.

“So I guess now we’ve just got to go back and have a look and say, well do we keep him in that role or do we change a few things around?”

The All Blacks squad is laden with loose forwards. Alongside the quartet that have been used against the Wallabies to date, Foster also has openside flankers Dalton Papalii and Du’Plessis Kirifi as well as utilities Akira Ioane and Cullen Grace to select from.

Papalii is the most experienced of the lot and his inclusion could push captain Cane into the No. 8 role while Kirifi is the most recent addition to the squad and will likely spend the next few weeks holding tackle bags as he becomes accustomed to the All Blacks environment.

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Should Foster want to keep things consistent, however, then Ioane or Grace appeal as more like-for-like replacements. Both appeared for and scored tries for their provincial sides on Saturday, with Ioane’s Auckland falling to North Harbour and Grace’s Canterbury being well and truly torn apart by Bay of Plenty.

“I thought Akira was good yesterday and he’s been good in training,” Foster said of Ioane. “We’ve also been impressed with Cullen [Grace] and the quiet work that he’s going about doing. So we’ve got some nice choices.”

20-year-old Grace, with just a handful of professional caps to his name, has been regularly released by the All Blacks this season to earn more minutes with Canterbury and would be a surprise inclusion ahead of either Sotutu or Ioane.

Sotutu’s coming of age with the Blues this season has also been recognised by captain Cane.

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“He’s been fantastic, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know ‘Hos’,” Cane said. “He’s a very relaxed, casual sort of character but just from conversations and little chats we’ve had, I think he sees the game really clearly.

“He’s obviously a pretty special athlete who had an outstanding Super Rugby Aotearoa so, should he get his chance, I’m sure he’ll take it.”

Meanwhile, props Nepo Laulala and Joe Moody could both miss this weekend’s game. Laulala’s partner is due to give birth, which has prevented the Blue from travelling to Australia as yet, while Moody is still recovering from the head knock he suffered against the Wallabies last weekend.

If the All Blacks score a win on Saturday, they’ll be able to lock away the Bledisloe Cup for another summer. A win to the home side, however, would keep the series alive for one more match.

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Red and White Dynamight 2 hours ago
Duhan van der Merwe hat-trick sinks sloppy England to win Calcutta Cup

Up the Jocks ! a great team effort and 4 victories v on the bounce v their greatest rivals for those north of Hadrians. But, of course, before the celebrations survive the first pint of McEwans, it seems for some this Calcutta Cup match was merely 1 man v 15. What exactly is it about Sth Africans that make them such insufferable bores ? you rarely see Kiwis claiming Ireland victories (incl 3 x NZers) or Aussies for that matter (X1). You never see Samoans claiming France/England victories (Tuilagis). Or Fijians claim All Black victories. Scotland have had some great Kiwi-born players (S.Lineen/B.Laney/J.Leslie) - no surprise given their heritage - but they supported them as their ‘2nd team’. If anything they applaud their countrymen for taking opportunities and bettering themselves as professionals and, hopefully, competing on the World stage too. It takes some stratospheric level of stupid to ignore the opaque boundaries and qualifications that now allow Japan to be competitive, Portugal to win a RWC game, Argentinians to play for Italy, New Zealanders to dominate Tongan and Samoan teams - and not celebrate that World Rugby is more competitive and better for it. Everywhere on social media, even when the post has zero to do with Sth Africans (schoolboy rugby being the most obvious barrel-scraping eg - these are KIDS), they pile in and try to claim the “we are better/stronger/faster” with such voluminous levels of obnoxious bile, that it poisons the mere celebration of the sport itself. These are not ‘rugby fans’ that can marvel at the Game they Play in Heaven, but rather some misplaced insecure-fuelled poison that they need to extract from deep inside their psyche. Its hard to understand the exact reason for the massive chip on their shoulders and their desperation for the victimhood/noone-loves-us-we-dont-care, but it seems accelerated with their LOTTO Cup 1-pt wins, like gasoline on the fire. Obsessed with ‘cheating’ refs and ‘cheating’ opposition (Rassies video bloopers during Lions tour; McCaw’s whole career) and celebrating their own thuggery (#JUSTICE4 the dirtiest player in pro-rugby history), when luck suddenly goes their way (1995 Final vs an acutely comprimised ABs; Kilosi<->Cane cards in 2023 Final) or their players escape adequate penalty (Etzebeth 1-handed non-intercepts; Kolbe illegal chargedown; Etzebeth cynically retreating in the AB backline) so obviously that its clearly been coached, then suddenly its AOK as long its SA that benefit directly from it. The schizophrenic nature of Sth Africans presents them as good company in person - and lets face it, theyre EVERYWHERE now and cant get out of their own country fast enough - but as anonymous keyboard ninjas their true nature shines out as one beset with a dark undercurrent of toxic self-absorption. It appears that the bravado appears only under the protection of anonymity, a cowardice of insufferable reverse-flagellation to make themselves feel proud when the mirror stares back at them. Give yourselves a long slow clap. Well done to the entire Scotland team including all those born south of Hadrians Wall. Playing a fantastic fast pace of fluid ball-in-hands rugby that seems almost foreign to other teams. Och aye the noo.

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