Suspended All Blacks prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi can pack his bags for an early departure to New Zealand. Some of his friends too, although their exact makeup won’t be known until next week.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster confirmed from Sydney after revealing his lineup against Argentina in their penultimate 2020 game at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday that they would likely send home a first wave of the traveling squad next week to get an early start to do with their managed isolation. in New Zealand.
That had always been the intention and plan, and Foster affirmed that, injuries and health permitting, they would make a decision on the composition of that group next week in the wake of the first clash against Argentina.
The All Blacks will complete their Tri-Nations commitments against Argentina on November 28 in Newcastle. They currently have 38 players in Australia, including Tu’ungafasi who has been suspended for three weeks in the wake of his red card against Australia last Saturday. .
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“We’re looking at the potential to send a few players home earlier, maybe early next week, once we get through this game,” said Foster. “That gives people the chance for a longer break for Super Rugby. When that happens, Ofa will be one of those people. “
Foster said an early return group was always part of the plan when this trip was planned. They felt they would need the sheer number to absorb the potential injury toll of four test matches in five weeks in Australia, but also that they would be able to jettison some of them ahead of the final match.
The New Zealanders have a week off after their third match of the Tri-Nations competition on Saturday against the Pumas in western Sydney.
“If we don’t have a lot of injuries there is a chance we can send a small number back a week or 10 days earlier so they can start their quarantine and I think they have a bigger break because they still have Super Rugby end of February next year.
“It is something that we are going to judge at the end of this match. We will see how we get through injuries and make decisions there. We have to make sure that we have a team that is able to prepare for the final test in Argentina. “
Skipper Sam Cane and rescuer Jordie Barrett may be candidates for an early release if all goes to plan. They will be the only All Blacks to start every test in 2020. Halfback TJ Perenara will go straight to Japan to start his sabbatical after this tour.
But a lot probably depends on what happened on Saturday. It’s likely that the All Blacks will still need to win their last game to win the Tri-Nations title, and Foster wants to make sure he has a lineup on hand that can achieve that.
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith said that while the prospect of an early start in isolation, and an earlier than planned return to families might come true for some, it would not be considered until after Saturday’s game.