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All Blacks squad in peril ahead of Irish test series

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Monday Jun 27, 2022

It’s not even the first test between the traveling Irish squad and New Zealand, but the All Blacks are already falling apart.

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It doesn’t involve any infighting however, in fact, it’s that dreaded Covid again.

On the infected list, 3 of the All Blacks main coaches find themselves now out of the camp. Head coach Ian Foster, assistants Scot McLeod and John Plumtree have all tested positive and are consequently having to self-isolate.

This has resulted in ex-Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt coming in to take control at the head until Ian Foster returns.

Joe Schmidt has spent much of the last 12 years in Ireland, firstly coaching Dublin-based province Leinster, before moving on to becoming the head coach for the national side. With his innate knowledge of Irish rugby and the players they possess, Schmidt could very well be the ideal man to take on the challenge.

Brad Mooar, a member of the All Blacks backroom team seemed optimistic about the transition:

“It’s not an unforeseen event. Covid has been around us for a couple of years now and we’ve planned for what will happen in this situation,” Mooar said.

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“Right now we’re preparing for Ireland, Plum and Foz have been zooming in, Feeky takes over on the ground with the forwards, and we just connect really closely.

“I’m really confident that, with the machine around us and the way it’s been set up, we won’t miss a beat.

“It’s not ideal. I think we can accept that and be honest with that, but we’ve planned for it … and now we can focus on the job at hand which is to put the week together and get ready.

“We know there’s a lot of work we need to do between now and Saturday to have the lads fresh and ready to go.”

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On the playing front, it would appear that David Havili and Jack Goodhue have also tested positive, and will both miss the first test. With the All Blacks having failed to nail down a consistent centre partnership leading up to these tests, the exclusion of these two challengers will really hurt their progress.

With these two now missing from the action, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck could now very well be the favourite to start at inside-centre. Mooar certainly appeared confident in the young man’s ability:

“He’s (Tupaea) had a season of test rugby under his belt, I thought he did some really good things on tour last year. He’s a big strong boy, he’s a confident athlete, does the work and backs his skill set. That pretty much ticks a lot of boxes for me.”

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