New Zealand look likely to have a new captain in place for their upcoming Bledisloe Cup clash against Australia, with three senior stars set to miss out due to the birth of their children.
Organisers announced earlier on Tuesday that a new structure is in place to complete the Rugby Championship in Queensland, although question marks remain over the Bledisloe III Test.
That fixture was due to be played on August 28 before the All Blacks pulled out of the game, citing uncertainty over the future of the tournament’s schedule in light of new Covid-19 outbreaks.
However, it’s now expected that rearranged Round 2 fixture will be played on either September 3 or September 4, with four back-to-back double-header weekends to follow in Queensland.
Sam Whitelock stood in for the injured Sam Cane as captain when New Zealand hammered the Wallabies 57-22 to retain the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th consecutive year earlier in August.
The All Blacks are due to travel to Australia on Thursday, but head coach Ian Foster told reporters Whitelock and fellow centurion Aaron Smith appear likely to remain in New Zealand.
"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," he said.
"We'll confirm more of those details as I have them.”
The New Zealand Herald reported fly-half Richie Mo’unga is also expecting and is set to stay in New Zealand with his partner.
Australia will rejoice at the suggestion their rivals could be missing three first-team stars, with the Wallabies desperate to get revenge following back-to-back losses against the All Blacks.
But Foster will have a ready-made replacement for Mo’unga at fly-half, with Beauden Barrett looking likely to fill that role having come on as a substitute in each of their last two Tests.
Damian McKenzie is another candidate to take over at No. 10, leaving Barrett to potentially deputise in the full-back position.
TJ Perenara or Brad Weber are the obvious contenders to replace Smith at scrum-half, while Scott Barrett eyes a potential start at second row if Whitelock is unavailable.
The Herald reported lock Barrett is also expecting his first child and could be granted an early release from New Zealand’s upcoming trip in order to return home.
As for whom might assume the captain’s armband without Whitelock or Smith present, back-rower Ardie Savea’s name has been touted as a potential leader, as has hooker Codie Taylor.
Foster—who has extended his contract to remain New Zealand coach until at least 2023—also touched on the differing quarantine measures between Australian states and how that could affect selection.
The All Blacks will be under ‘soft’ quarantine rules when they fly out to Perth, but those joining the team later in Queensland will be forced to endure a more rigorous two-week isolation period.
"We've got some family situations around babies that we're trying to juggle and what that means now, particularly with not coming on the plane on Thursday but also when we get to Queensland they've got a hard quarantine for two weeks which is a player alone in his room so that's going to delay some entry for some players,” Foster added.
"We're juggling a little bit but we'll probably release the group that's going on the plane later tomorrow.
"Once we know how long the Queensland quarantine situation is going to be for bringing replacement players over that might determine when we might bring some extra players over.”
That situation could rule the likes of Whitelock, Smith and Mo’unga out of facing Argentina at the CBUS Super Stadium on September 12, dependent on when they arrive in Queensland.
Source: Read Full Article