Foster: Clarke capable of negotiating spotlight

Rugby

All Blacks coach Ian Foster says he isn’t worried about Caleb Clarke coping with the Jonah Lomu comparisons coming his way after the rookie winger bulldozed through the Wallabies on Sunday.

Clarke was the standout performer in New Zealand’s 27-7 victory, the winger opening up some flimsy Australian defence on a number of occasions leading to the comparisons with the late All Blacks great.

“His expectations are set by himself, his family and by us – he’s fine. What the world wants to say is their business,” Foster said.

“I’m really confident that he’s grounded, he’s got a lot of self-belief and self-awareness.

“He knows it’s a fickle world, you get headlines one day and get shot down the next. You just have to enjoy what you’re doing – and he’s fully grounded in that area.”

Prop Joe Moody had recovered well from being knocked out in a collision with Ned Hanigan’s hip but is no certainty to travel to Australia for the remainder of the series.

Meanwhile, the All Blacks are planning a one-day play-and-dash to Brisbane for the final Bledisloe Cup rugby Test on Nov. 7 because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Foster said his team would head to Sydney on Sunday to prepare for the third Test in the series on October 31.

They would stay on in Sydney until the last possible moment before a lightning raid across the border and back.

“We’re anticipating going up to Brisbane on the day, remaining in a bubble and coming back on the same day,” Foster said.

Foster said “information is changing all the time” in terms of travel restrictions to Queensland from NSW and was mindful that a Queensland state election on October 31 could further impact plans.

COVID-19 quarantine rules in New Zealand also impacted how many players the All Blacks might take to Australia, with Foster saying he planned to take as few as possible in terms of back-up.

If players were taken over and not needed they would then have to spend two weeks in managed isolation back in New Zealand before they’d be able to rejoin provincial teams for the Mitre 10 Cup.

The logistics of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic were typical of a year full of uncertainty.

“It’s been very unique for all sporting teams – the one thing we’re really conscious of is the stop-start preparation for the players,” Foster said.

“They’ve gone from a very short preparation, into an intense Super Rugby and then a period of irregular play. I really take my hat off to our wellbeing group for how we studied that, how we managed contact sessions to duplicate games that haven’t been played.”

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