SYDNEY, Nov 12 (Reuters) - A small group of New Zealand players might be able to return home from the Tri-Nations early next week, depending on how the squad comes through their match against Argentina on Saturday, coach Ian Foster has said.
The All Blacks meet the Pumas in Sydney then have two weeks before their final game of the championship, against Mario Ledesma’s team on Nov. 28 in Newcastle.
“It has always been our plan with the squad we have got that, if we don’t have a lot of injuries, and we had the chance to send a small number back a week or 10 days earlier,” Foster told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.
“It will be something we assess at the end of this game and see how we come through with injuries and make a decision there.
“(But) we still have to make sure we have a squad that is capable to prepare really well for the last Argentinian test.”
Foster said that Ofa Tuungafasi, whose tournament ended on Wednesday when he received a three-week suspension after being sent off against Australia last Saturday, was likely one of the players allowed to return home.
The All Blacks need to spend 14 days in isolation when they return home as part of the country’s strict border controls to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Foster added that releasing some of the players early would also help them meet one of the goals of the Tri-Nations, which was to give more game time to fringe or uncapped players as they look ahead to the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
“Our number one priority was to win the Bledisloe, number two was to win the Tri-Nations,” he said.
“Number three was, where possible, to give a number (of players) in our squad an opportunity.
“Our strategy hasn’t changed.” (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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