The All Blacks’ preparations for the first Test against Ireland in Auckland has been thrown into further disarray with a key backline star ruled out.
Will Jordan became the latest All Black to test positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, just four days before New Zealand’s season-opener.
Crusaders wing Jordan joined centres David Havili and Jack Goodhue, head coach Ian Foster and assistant coaches John Plumtree and Scott McLeod, who have all tested positive this week.
Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga has a stomach virus but is expected to be available off the bench at Eden Park on Saturday, with Beauden Barrett starting in the No 10 jersey.
Jordan had been expected to start on the right wing with Jordie Barrett, who is also said to be nursing a minor injury, at fullback.
The string of positive test results in the All Blacks camp may give two players the chance to make their Test debuts, with Leicester Fainga’anuku in line to start on the wing and Stephen Perofeta coming off the bench should Mo’unga not recover in time.
Quinn Tupaea, who featured in seven Tests last year, could come into the centres because of the absence of Havili and Goodhue alongside Braydon Ennor, who has been added to the squad.
Assistant coaches Brad Mooar and Greg Feek, with the help of former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt who got a call-up on Monday, are in charge of preparing the side and remain in close contact with Foster who is in forced isolation.
New Zealander Schmidt, who had already been scheduled to join the All Blacks after the Ireland tour, will assist with training on Tuesday and Thursday.
“We’ve planned for this kind of disruption and we’ve got backup plans and people on standby,” said Foster. “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.”