Stand-in All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock is among the three key players who are unlikely to travel with the team to Australia for their Rugby Championship Tests against the Wallabies and Argentina.
According to reports in New Zealand, Whitelock, currently standing in for injured captain Sam Cane, as well as influential scrumhalf Aaron Smith and flyhalf Richie Mo’unga, will likely not travel with the All Blacks to Perth on Thursday for next weekend’s rearranged third Bledisloe Cup Test.
All three players are expecting imminent baby arrivals and will not board the plane to Perth.
“I’ll have to confirm everything but it’s unlikely Sammy Whitelock, for example, and Aaron Smith, potentially, will be on the plane on Thursday,” head coach Ian Foster said. “We’ll confirm more of those details as I have them.”
Should the three players remain in New Zealand and then travel to Queensland for the remaining Rugby Championship fixtures against Argentina and Springboks, they may be forced into a hard quarantine, involving isolation in their hotel rooms for two weeks. This could mean that they will also miss the Test against Los Pumas on 12 September.
This means that the All Blacks will have a new captain for at least the Test against the Wallabies. Loose forward Ardie Savea is a potential option, as is hooker Codie Taylor and back Beauden Barrett.
The All Blacks will name their travelling squad on Wednesday.
“The last 48 hours we’ve been focusing on that,” Foster said. “The squad will be mid-30s, I’d say, initially. We’ve got to look at some variables now. We’ve got to have players that have had two jabs before they get on a plane, so that changes things. They’ve got to have a negative Covid test so everyone is running around doing that today.”
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