Liam Napier/NZ Herald

Ian Foster talks All Blacks squad rotation, player welfare, MItre 10 Cup and the reports the media has wrong.

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Full scale rotation will be back in vogue for the Rugby Championship with All Blacks coach Ian Foster confirming plans to take an enlarged squad to Australia where he will chop and change his starting team on a weekly basis to counter short turnarounds.

Foster is set to add 10 or 11 players to his original 35-man squad in the coming weeks after Australia secured the Rugby Championship hosting rights.

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While the original squad will be used for the first two Bledisloe Cup matches in New Zealand next month, additional cover is needed in Australia due to the complexities involved with replacing injured players when two weeks quarantine is required.

The Rugby Championship is set to be staged in a condensed window, with the tournament starting on November 7 and finishing in the first weekend of December to avoid the All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas having to quarantine through Christmas on their return home.

“From a player welfare set up I don’t think we can delay the naming of the extra players too close to departure because people are going to need the time to get organised for that nine-week stint,” Foster said. “We’re going to let the next week or two go but we’ll name those players with enough time to get their personal stuff in line and come away with a lot of energy.”

Foster admitted managing an increased squad and changing combinations every week will create headaches but it is also a chance to build depth.

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“They’re going to be significant but not insurmountable. We’ve got an experienced leadership group and management – they’re challenges we have to deal with one at a time and not get overwhelmed by them.

“We’re going to have re-think how we do some things as an All Black. Some traditional things might have to change. We’ve got a mantra that everyone prepares to play every test. You can’t do that with 45 or 46 players.

“We’re going to have to be rotating, bring back that word. We’re obviously going to have to change players in and out significantly. When you’ve got four or five day turnarounds between some tests you’d like to think the four props you use in one test won’t be the four props you use in the next test.”

The spinoffs of the Rugby Championship being based in Australia, and the All Blacks taking additional players there, will strip the Mitre 10 Cup competition of its top-tier talent.

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All Blacks will turn out for their respective unions again this weekend, and individuals not needed for Bledisloe tests will filter back, but that will come to an end once the team departs New Zealand shores.

“I don’t necessarily agree that we’re going to decimate it. We were always going to take 35 players and the competition never normally has those players in it. Is it going to change the nature of it? Of course it is. That’s what happens when the international game is played at the same time as the Mitre 10 Cup.

“If the Bledisloe Cup dates are what we’re talking about now [October 10/11 and 17/18] I’d say the blanket availability of All Blacks for the Mitre 10 Cup from round three onwards will be gone, but there will still be some individual players that will pop back and play.”

Foster is confident he will take a largely full-strength squad to Australia, despite concerns raised around the possibility of some players pulling out for family reasons. He took aim at a report from Radio New Zealand which suggested new or expecting fathers Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga, TJ Perenara and Sevu Reece had opted out of the tournament.

“The way it was reported was not correct. Are players talking about the issues? Yes they are. We’re like everyone we’re learning things as we go along. We now know we’ve got a nine week stint in Australia that involves us coming out of quarantine on December 19.

“Now we get more information we’re talking to the players one by one and assessing their situations. Every player is going to be slightly different but I haven’t heard from any player at all that they’re not coming. What I’ve heard from some players is they’ve got some questions. That’s a completely different thing and purely natural.

“It’s massively tricky but there’s also a reality of being a professional sportsperson too. It’s balancing the family side. Last year we went to the World Cup for seven weeks. This year we’ve got to go to Aussie and play a Rugby Championship for seven weeks then you’ve got two weeks quarantining on the end.

“We all know it’s not ideal and it’s an imperfect world we live in but they are the cards we’ve been dealt.”

The 35-man All Blacks squad – Another 10-11 players will be added:
Asafo Aumua, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Sam Cane, Caleb Clarke, Dane Coles, Braydon Ennor, Shannon Frizell, Jack Goodhue, Cullen Grace, Alex Hodgman, Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane, Will Jordan, Nepo Laulala, Anton Lienert-Brown, Tyrel Lomax, Damian McKenzie, Joe Moody, Richie Mo’unga, Dalton Papalii, TJ Perenara, Sevu Reece, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Hoskins Sotutu, Quinten Strange, Codie Taylor, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Patrick Tuipulotu, Ofa Tuungafasi, Tupou Vaa’i, Brad Weber, Sam Whitelock

This article first appeared on nzherald.co.nz and is republished with permission

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