What a wild week for the All Blacks.

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Just when you thought the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 on major sporting events had largely dissipated, the All Blacks’ first Test week against Ireland went from one aberration to another.

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, head assistant John Plumtree and Crusaders linebackers David Haviley and Jack Goodhue were the first to be infected. A day later, defensive coach Scott McLeod was out; Crusaders’ next electric quarterback Will Jordan ruled out – probably before the third Test.

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Three days into the match, scrum coach Greg Fick tested positive and Mike Krohn was called in to cover his role.

Add to that a minor stomach issue that caused Richie Mounga to miss practice on Tuesday and the leprechaun’s luck was on Ireland’s side.

However, Ireland was undoubtedly spooked by the All Blacks sending an SOS to Joe Schmidt.

While Ireland has evolved over the past two and a half years under the leadership of Andy Farrell, Schmidt’s seven-year tenure (2013-2019) ensures he holds significant intellectual property over many influential senior tourism players and their trends.

Initially not intending to start his role as a breeder/analyst before the Rugby Championship, fearing Ireland would be unduly confused, Schmidt attended All Blacks training on Tuesday and Thursday, contributing heavily to the defensive end. However, after being spotted having coffee with management at the team hotel, Schmidt will no doubt offer information across the board.

Navigating any test week with your head coach and offensive mentor limited zoom is far from ideal. Despite this drama, the All Blacks continue to create a picture of calm as senior players relish the opportunity to take on more responsibility sooner than usual.

“Honestly, the team is really impressive,” said All Blacks captain Sam Kane. “Maybe it’s because we got so used to it throughout Super Rugby, every team had so many things to deal with. a whole lot.”

The absence of Havili, who was expected to start a second five-eighth, Goodhue and Jordan, the last of which was a lock to the right flank, forced changes to the All Blacks’ preferred starting line with 12th-seeded chiefs Quinn Tupea and Seva Rees. in their place.

The selection of Scott Barrett as blindfold winger – for the first time since the same ill-fated move in the 2019 World Cup semi-final against England – is a major point of discussion that suggests the All Blacks are intent on targeting the lineout.

“I didn’t spend too much time thinking about the 2019 game. We learned some lessons from this, but they were learned a long time ago,” said All Black coach Ian Foster. “In this we have outlined the strategy very clearly. We already talked about this with Scott.

“In addition to his quickness from set pieces, he provides a strong defense and is probably our most dynamic ball blocker at the moment, so we can use that a bit at six years old. we had to make sure we tidy up.”

Of great interest is also the choice of two rookies – the Crusaders strong wing Leicester Fainga’anuku on the left flank and, on a similar theme, the Chiefs are missing the ball from forward Pete Gus Sowakula, who carries the presence from the bench.

Ireland arrives in New Zealand under a sign of All Blacks vengeance, having won their last meeting in Dublin and three of the last five Tests between the two proud rugby nations.

Eden Park sold out a few weeks ago, telling you all about the hype around the most anticipated July series since the 2017 British & Irish Lions tour. Until then, you’ll have to go back to the 2014 tour of England to appreciate the same wide participation.

It is a sign of respect for Ireland and a sense of the danger they bring to their quest for their first triumph on the shores of New Zealand.

For the All Blacks, it’s a simple equation. After consecutive losses until the end of last year, they should allay growing concerns, especially about their aging forward’s ability to provide a dominant platform.

The Māori All Blacks took some of the thrill away with their impressive 32-17 victory over the Republic of Ireland in Hamilton on Wednesday night. Farrell noted that he had 15 test players in the stands after the match, but that result was a setback for Ireland in terms of confidence and staffing.

Starting any tour with a loss is harder, especially for those who have three days to bounce back against the All Blacks.

Enlisting 40 players for a tour that includes five matches – two against Maori – in three weeks at the end of another long season for Ireland does not seem to be enough.

Ireland lost Ian Henderson’s Lions lock and Rob Herring prostitute to injuries before the ball was kicked out and more losses were needed on Wednesday night with Jimmy O’Brien and James Hume having doubts.

The All Blacks usually got rusty in their first Test of the year. Even though the locals last lost at Eden Park in 1994, the complications of COVID reinforce the feeling that the initial test is Ireland’s best chance of causing a boil.

“Obviously it’s been an intriguing week,” said Foster, who plans to come out of home isolation in time for Saturday’s test. “We’ve gotten used to it over the last couple of years, but this is a unique week for us. We are delighted with our team. This does not change the statement we want to make for the first test of the year. It has always been difficult for us, but we are ready to go.”

Ireland’s recent success against the All Blacks points to their threat. However, they are far from Dublin. And they should be much better than their mid-week performance.