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Joe Schmidt joins All Blacks set-up as another coach succumbs to Covid

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Joe Schmidt has joined the All Blacks set-up just days out from their season-opening test against his former side Ireland after a Covid outbreak within the New Zealand camp claimed another victim.

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Hours after confirming an outbreak of the virus had impacted four players, the All Blacks revealed defence coach Scott McLeod has been added to that infected contingent after he tested positive for Covid on Monday.

As such, he joins midfielder David Havili and Jack Goodhue, head coach Ian Foster and assistant coach John Plumtree as positive Covid cases as the All Blacks continue to prepare for their first test of the year at Eden Park on Saturday.

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In McLeod’s place has come Schmidt, the soon-to-be All Blacks selector who was due to join the New Zealand national side as Grant Fox’s replacement after the upcoming series against Ireland, who he took charge of between 2013 and 2019.

However, a rapid change of circumstances has resulted in Schmidt being fast-tracked into the All Blacks camp as the Kiwis contend with a shortage of coaches available to lead the team on the ground.

In a statement released on Monday, Foster hinted that the premature arrival of Schmidt into the All Blacks camp was something his side had planned for in the event of a Covid outbreak within the squad.

“Joe will come in for Tuesday and Thursday’s trainings this week, and we’re really grateful to have his help,” Foster said.

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“We’ve planned for this kind of disruption and we’ve got back up plans and people on standby.  Joe was one of those people we could call on.

“I’ve got every confidence in our coaching group, and in our senior leaders who are all stepping up in what’s a massive test for us.

“Everyone has had to deal with these kinds of disruptions over the past couple of years. This is a real opportunity for the coaching group and team to pull together.”

The unavailability of Foster, Plumtree and McLeod means Schmidt will join attack coach Brad Mooar and scrum coach Greg Feek as the only coaches available to lead the side on the ground.

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Foster and Plumtree will retain their roles as the side’s two most senior coaches via Zoom, and will continue to act as selectors alongside Fox, while Feek will assume the role of forwards coach in Plumtree’s absence.

Four-test Crusaders utility back Braydon Ennor has been called into the squad to fill the void left by franchise teammates and fellow midfielders Havili and Goodhue.

After initially missing selection for the Ireland series, Ennor is now in contention to feature this weekend alongside the likes of Rieko Ioane, Quinn Tupaea and the uncapped Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

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