Head coach Ian Foster has admitted that it is unlikely that the All Blacks‘ scheduled tests will go ahead in July.
The All Blacks are set to kick off their 2020 season with home tests against Wales and Scotland in July, but with the coronavirus outbreak seeing all sport suspended indefinitely and countries and borders locked down, the chances of the All Blacks’ season starting as planned are diminishing by the day.
While Foster argued that nobody knows what the sporting landscape will look like come July, he acknowledged that the All Blacks’ start to the season will likely either be delayed, or significantly altered, with Wales and Scotland unlikely to be able to visit.
“If you look at the probability, there’s a reasonably good chance that international travel and borders won’t be down across the world at that point, so in that case the All Blacks won’t be playing in July,” Foster told Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB.
“Will we be able to play someone closer to us, who we can travel to? Or do we not panic about that, and so ‘Okay, July’s off, but can we play some Super Rugby local derbies?’ We’ve just got to have plans for all those scenarios.
“We’ve probably got to be ready to play countries in a different order and different locations.
“We realise that when the curtain goes up and it’s time to play, and the borders are open, there will be a lot of desire to get the international game going, particularly from the Southern Hemisphere teams. We’ll be keen to play as much as we can – because that’s how you can generate some big money, and we can start to recoup some stuff. But equally important is getting our domestic game going as soon as we can – we need to get all our grassroots people back watching rugby, and participating in it and enjoying it.”
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Foster, who earlier confirmed that he and his coaching staff have taken a pay cut as a result of the economic crisis that has emerged as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, is realistic about how fit his All Blacks players can remain during New Zealand’s level four lockdown.
“It’s not about keeping them at 100 per cent right now, because I think they’ll just blow out mentally and get really frustrated with that because there’s so much uncertainty.
“We want the players to settle down then we’ll start expecting fitness levels to be at a certain point that when the lockdown finishes and we do start to think about a starting point for rugby again, that they’re close enough that we can just ramp them up and get them to full fitness as quick as possible.”
However, while the players are left with limited options to keep busy during the lockdown, Foster says his coaching staff can still accomplish plenty during their isolation.
“From a coaching point, there’s actually plenty we can do. We had a three-hour Zoom [call] the other day on one of our opponents that we might be playing this year. So we’re trying to use this time to build up dossiers on some opposition, and for us to connect as a new coaching group. We’re stockpiling some strategies for, hopefully, what will be a big year coming up – but it’s probably going to be an irregular year, with lots of changes in it.”
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