Ian Foster could be without several key playmakers for the Rugby Championship with a number of All Blacks reportedly telling NZ Rugby they do not want to be away from their young families for an extended period.
A RNZ.co.nz report on Monday suggested each of Beauden Barrett, Richie Mo’unga and TJ Perenara had expressed concerns about having to spend almost two months across the Tasman to complete the tournament.
Australia was last week awarded the right to host the tournament “hub” with matches to be played in Sydney and potentially Newcastle, with one round heading north to Brisbane.
New Zealand will host two Bledisloe Cup fixtures beforehand, likely on Oct. 17 and 24, although Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is unhappy with the current quarantine restrictions in place in New Zealand which would limit his 44-man squad to little more than seven days training before the first Test.
Of the All Blacks who have reportedly flagged their concerns with NZ Rugby, Perenara and Mo’unga are new first-time fathers while Barrett will have his first child next month. Winger Sevu Reece is in the same situation as Barrett while the report indicated there were other concerned players.
If both Mo’unga and Barrett were to withdraw from the tournament, Highlanders playmaker and one-Test All Blacks Josh Ioane could be in line for a call-up while there is no shortage of outside back replacements to cover Reece’s absence.
Foster had already been expected to expand the 36-man squad he named a week ago after New Zealand failed to secure the Rugby Championship hosting rights. Each of the All Blacks, Springboks and Pumas will be contained in their individual hubs for the duration of their time in Australia.
The Rugby Championship is due to kick-off on Nov. 7 and be played across six consecutive weekends to Dec. 12, though both Rugby Australia and NZ Rugby have indicated that the closing Tests could be brought forward, and midweek games also a possibility, to ensure All Blacks players would have time to complete quarantine on their return to New Zealand and be back with their families for Christmas.
Both Mo’unga and Barrett were chosen at fly-half in Ian Foster’s squad, suggesting the duo will fight out the No. 10 jersey for the opening Bledisloe Cup Test in New Zealand. But losing both world-class playmakers for all six Tests of the Rugby Championship would be a significant blow, so too back-up No. 9 Perenara.