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'It's just sad': All Blacks coach's sympathy for Covid-infected Halaholo

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Ian Cook/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree says “it’s very sad” that Kiwi-born Welsh star Willis Halaholo won’t be able to face his countrymen this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19.


Halaholo’s contraction of the virus means he has been withdrawn from the Wales squad just days out from their clash with the All Blacks at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

Born-and-raised in New Zealand, the test would have held particular significance for the 31-year-old midfielder, who made his test debut for Wales against Scotland during this year’s Six Nations.

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Given the unavailability of Welsh numerous players due to club commitments and injuries, Halaholo was a strong contender to be picked by Wales head coach Wayne Pivac, another Kiwi, to play this weekend, but those hopes have now been scuppered.

Plumtree coached Halaholo at the Hurricanes between 2015 and 2016 before the latter joined the Cardiff Blues five years ago.

He said it was disappointing for Halaholo and his family that he won’t be able to face off against some of his former teammates.

“It’s just sad. It’s very sad news for Willis. I’m sure he would have been excited about playing the All Blacks. Top-quality player and very sad for him and his family,” Plumtree told media on Wednesday [NZT].


Halaholo, who is isolating away from the Welsh side for the next 10 days, has been replaced in Pivac’s squad by Scott Williams.

The six-test international took to Twitter to share his disappointment in the wake of his withdrawal as he revealed the news was compounded by the loss of his aunty the night before he tested positive.

“Been a rough 24hours. Found out my aunty(pretty much a 2nd mum to me) passed away late lastnight [sic],” Halaholo wrote.

“Then wake up this morning and teat positive and [will] be unavailable for a game that I’ve worked hard towards since it was announced. Gutted. Congrats @ScottWilliams_1 Goodluck [sic] brothers.”


Plumtree moved to alleviate concerns that this weekend’s test has been jeopardised by the positive case within the Wales squad as he maintained the news hasn’t impacted the All Blacks squad.

“There will be all sorts of talk around the game and, ‘Is it in jeopardy?’, but, as we understand right now, the player that’s been tested with Covid has dropped out of their environment, they’ll all get tested, and they’ll all have to be negative before they can play on the weekend.

“For us, we all got tested last night and we haven’t had any results yet, I don’t think, but, for us, it’s just business as usual. It’s what’s happening in their camp.”

Furthermore, Plumtree assured that the All Blacks are abiding by strict Covid-19 protocols during their stay in the Welsh capital, as they did in Washington DC in the lead-up to last week’s 104-14 thumping of the USA Eagles.

“We understand the risk. We have come from Washington, where the risk was probably a bit lower, but we were still in the same bubble,” he said from Wales, where more than 36,000 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the past fortnight.

“Here, with the amount of cases per day, the players understand the risk that’s involved, and certainly they’re heightened to it, so the boys have been very good.

“Management have put some really good things in place for us here to just try and keep everyone a little bit sane, if you like, because it’s obviously way out of what we are used to doing when we’re on tour, or certainly in any rugby environment that I’ve been in.

“There are little challenges along the way, and especially in our 11th week away, so this is a real endurance battle, mentally.

“If you came into our environment and saw how the players were coping, you’d admire them because it’s not easy, but they’re all sticking really tight and we all understand the importance of just being grateful that we can play on a world stage right now in these types of conditions.”


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