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Joe Schmidt has been called in to help coach the All Blacks in their first test against Ireland at Eden Park on Saturday after a Covid outbreak in camp.
Schmidt was not due to start his selector/analyst role with the All Blacks until the Rugby Championship but after head coach Ian Foster, forwards coach John Plumtree and defence coach Scott McLeod all caught Covid, he will now attend team trainings this week.
In further disruption for the All Blacks, Crusaders midfielders David Havili and Jack Goodhue have also been removed from the team due to Covid. Crusaders centre Braydon Ennor has joined the squad as cover.
Schmidt coached Ireland from 2013-19 – a period that included their first win and maiden home victories against the All Blacks – before returning home last year. Schmidt's intimate knowledge of Ireland's senior players and management (Irish head coach Andy Farrell was his assistant) is sure to prove valuable.
Losing their most experienced coaches causes significant disruption for the All Blacks, however.
Given the seven day isolation period assistant coaches Brad Mooar and scrum coach Greg Feek, alongside Schmidt, will largely assume the reins.
Ian Foster was among the few in All Blacks camp to test positive for Covid-19. Photo / Photosport
Havili was expected to start at second five-eighth alongside Rieko Ioane in the All Blacks midfield but Quinn Tupaea may now benefit from his and Goodhue's respective absences.
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck also now looms as potential bench cover, although the All Blacks could prefer fellow test rookie Leicester Fainga'anuku.
In a statement from isolation, Foster said he is confident in the team's ability to carry on preparing for the first test.
"We've had a plan for this happening, and it's a great opportunity for the wider coaching group and the senior players, who will be highly motivated to step up.
"We have learned how to cope with the unexpected, like everyone has over the past couple of years. I will still be working alongside the coaches and team via Zoom and I have huge faith in the coaching group and the players.
"We have structures in place and everyone is working together."
- by Liam Napier, NZ Herald