Big names bolster All Blacks for northern tour

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Coach Ian Foster said with Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles and Shannon Frizell meeting up with the All Blacks in Washington their readiness to play would be assessed before any captaincy change was considered.

 

“At the moment, we're going to stay with the status quo,” Foster said. “...so, Ardie will carry on leading this team in the short-term future but then once we get to Washington and Wales, we'll make some assessments about where the other guys are, then we'll let people know.”

 

Cane would be left to come back into the environment for two or three weeks to get his confidence up. The 29-year-old loose forward has not played since the end of March, when he suffered a pectoral injury against the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa,

 

The All Blacks are to play: the United States on October 24 in Washington, Wales in Cardiff on October 31, Italy in Rome on November 6, Ireland in Dublin on November 14 and France in Paris on November 20.

 

With locks Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu returning home, after securing places in the MIQ lottery, the way was open for Taranaki bolter Josh Lord to join Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa'i and Sam Whitelock as the locks for the trip.

 

Foster said Lord was a young player with a lot of promise who had impressed the selectors when doing their rounds of the Super Rugby sides.

 

"He's very athletic and we saw this as an opportunity to grow a young player for the future. He's got the physical attributes that we think are right, and it's a chance to get him on this tour and start working with him," he said.

 

It wasn't a new ploy by the All Blacks as Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava and, Asafo Aumua were examples of what former coach Sir Graham Henry described as 'special projects' on past tours.

 

 

 

There was a temptation to include another lock but, with Frizell, they felt they had sufficient cover.

 

Vaa'i would have an increased role with the side, and Foster was confident of his ability to handle that.

 

"We love what he did with us last year. We saw Tupou come in quickly last year, and he dealt with a starting role in a Bledisloe Cup game under a lot of pressure. Whenever we put him on the park, we felt he performed well, and he's continued to do that and impress us.

 

"We see this tour as a chance for him to get some significant game time and have a big role," he said.

 

Whitelock and hooker Coles will play Bunnings NPC games this weekend, and with Bay of Plenty on a bye, efforts are being made for Cane to play a Heartland game.

 

While the NPC continuing into November would be ideal should injuries be an issue for the All Blacks, Foster said it wasn't a concern because previous northern tours occurred when the NPC had finished.

 

Having the competition continue meant it would be easier to get players into Europe and that would be a useful backup should they get an injury.

 

"The fact that some NPC is going is still a positive for us," he said.

 

They were resigned to halfback Aaron Smith not joining them, but such was the situation that it was a case of 'never saying never', he said.

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