All Blacks stars to miss third Bledisloe Cup Test

1 month ago 20
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This story was originally published on Stuff and is republished with permission

As expected, there is no Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith or Richie Mo'unga in Ian Foster's All Blacks squad of 35 which departs for Perth on Thursday to begin preparations for the Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies.

The travelling group was confirmed ahead of this evening's departure, though no captain was named in Whitelock's absence, with the lock remaining behind for the birth of the newest addition to his family.

Experienced hooker Codie Taylor is expected to take on that mantle.

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Foster is taking a pared-back squad to Perth for the clash against the Wallabies at Optus Stadium on Sunday, September 5, with key halves Smith and Mo'unga also excused the trip because of their own imminent baby arrivals.

The plan is for this key trio, along with injured hooker Dane Coles who also misses the initial trip as he battles a calf injury, to join the squad when timing allows.

Blues and Tasman halfback Finlay Christie comes in to cover for Smith's absence, while powerhouse Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei'aho remains in the squad to cover for Coles' extended time out.

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Foster is taking just one specialist five-eighth to Perth in Beauden Barrett, with the veteran Blues pivot now a certainty to start at No.10 in the final clash for the year against the Wallabies.

Utility back Damian McKenzie, who started the first two Bledisloe contests at fullback, will provide the cover at five-eighth.

The squad includes eight props, with Joe Moody (foot) and Ofa Tu'ungafasi (knee) both included as they work their way back from long-term injury absences.

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The large contingent indicates that pair may not be match-ready until later in the tour.

There is also no Shannon Frizell among a loose forwards contingent of six, with Foster saying they would look to give some players the chance to log time in provincial rugby before potentially adding them to the squad later as required.

The All Blacks will play out the remainder of the Rugby Championship after the final Bledisloe for 2021 in Queensland.

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They are scheduled to meet Argentina on the Gold Coast on September 12, and then again in Brisbane on September 18, and then finish with back-to-back Tests against the world champion Springboks on September 25 in Townsville and October 2 back on the Gold Coast.

"We'll be playing 10 Tests in 12 weeks in both the southern and northern hemispheres, and with Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, this will be a tour like no other for us in the professional era," Foster said.

"We can't wait to get under way."

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All Blacks initial travelling squad:

Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Codie Taylor

Props: George Bower, Ethan de Groot, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta'avao, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi

Locks: Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaa'i

Loose forwards: Ethan Blackadder, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu

Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, TJ Perenara, Brad Weber

Five–eighths: Beauden Barrett

Midfielders: Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea

Outside backs: Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece

This story was originally published on Stuff and is republished with permission

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