All Blacks without key trio as team departs for Perth

Stand-in captain Sam Whitelock, scrumhalf Aaron Smith and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga have all been left out of the All Blacks squad that will depart for Perth for their Rugby Championship match against the Wallabies.

Head coach Ian Foster named an initial squad of 35 for the third Bledisloe Cup match against Australia next Saturday but, as expected, the three aforementioned players were left out as they are all expecting new additions to their families.

Whitelock, Smith and Mo’unga are expected to miss at least three Tests, including the two against Argentina, due to the two-week quarantine in Queensland, but could return for the fixtures against South Africa.

The All Blacks did not confirm who would captain the team in Whitelock’s absence, as the 127-cap lock has stood in for injured skipper Sam Cane during the initial stages of the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand reports suggest that hooker Codie Taylor could lead the team, but loose forward Ardie Savea or scrumhalf TJ Perenara would be equally comfortable in the role.

“We decided to let our leaders have a couple of days’ grace and enjoy being home,” said Foster of the captaincy. “We’ve got plenty of time now to acclimatise and get used to contact, and part of that process tomorrow is going to be to sit down with the leadership group and sort through the structure we’re going to operate in the short term.

“It’s been difficult saying goodbye. But the reality is that’s what we have to do in these times. The fact that what normally would mean people missing one Test is now three or four has just complicated the whole issue. But the solution is pretty simple.”

Photo: Getty Images

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Dylan Jack