All Blacks ready for more tests of depth after Bledisloe sweep
Fullback Jordie Barrett may face suspension for his midair clash with Marika Koroibete
Melbourne — The All Blacks passed their Test of depth with flying colours against Australia in Perth on Sunday but may face further challenges as their “tour like no other” rolls on to Queensland for a Rugby Championship clash against Argentina.
Both hooker Codie Taylor and loose forward Ardie Savea must clear concussion protocols after suffering head-knocks in the 38-21 defeat of the Wallabies, while red-carded fullback Jordie Barrett may face suspension for his midair clash with Marika Koroibete.
With lock Sam Whitelock and first-choice halves Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith left home in New Zealand for the births of their children, the All Blacks may need to dig deep into their touring squad of 35.
Defence coach Scott McLeod was hopeful all three of Taylor, Savea and Barrett could be available for Sunday’s clash on the Gold Coast, while suggesting a potential defence for Barrett, whose boot connected with the Wallabies winger’s face while catching a high ball.
“There’s some mitigating circumstances from our side so we’ll put forward a case,” McLeod said. “He won the space in the air so in previous cases the person who has done that everyone else has to look after ... or be aware of that.”
The All Blacks have solid reinforcements in fullback Damian McKenzie, loose forward Ethan Blackadder and hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho if the worst-case scenario plays out. Named in the reserves in Perth, all three were called into action early after Barrett’s red card and the knocks to Savea and Taylor a few minutes before halftime.
Blackadder and Taukei’aho slotted seamlessly into the pack and within minutes were celebrating the first of inside centre David Havili’s tries after helping shove the Wallabies over in a lineout drive.
That gave the All Blacks an 18-0 halftime lead, silencing the crowd of 52,000 at Perth Stadium and setting the platform for another big win over the Australians.
“You look at the quality of the guys that came off the field, I was really pleased,” coach Foster said. “But it’s a squad that’s worked really hard to get role clarity. We’re getting there.”
Whitewashing Australia 3-0 in the Bledisloe Cup, the annual series contested by the trans-Tasman nations, was a further boost for Foster after his contract was recently extended to the 2023 World Cup in France.
After only three wins from six Tests in 2020, Foster came into the series under huge pressure to deliver. He was still feeling the heat after Bledisloe I, with some critics unimpressed with the team’s performance in the 33-25 win at Eden Park.
Foster said he would take more than a feeling of validation away from Perth. “We’re going to get dealt cards with selection and injuries and all that going forward for the next four weeks anyway,” Foster said.
“Adapting and adjusting ... has been a theme already. So that’s probably what makes me the most excited about the performance.”
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.