Ian Foster insists World Rugby's concussion protocols are 'crystal clear' within his camp, as the All Blacks head coach was asked if he could explain why Sam Whitelock has been stood down for 12 days and Johnny Sexton hasn't.
Talismanic lock Whitelock may miss the remainder of the Series due to delayed onset concussion following last week's first Test, during which Sexton was forced off with a head injury after 31 minutes.
Although Sexton failed HIA 1, the Ireland captain has since passed HIA 2 and HIA 3, which meant a concussion could not be confirmed, and as such, he has been passed fit to start Saturday's second Test in Dunedin.
Foster declined to speculate on the specifics of Sexton's fitness, but it appeared as though the New Zealand boss was somewhat surprised that the Ireland out-half was in line to play this weekend.
“I can't answer that question from their perspective because I don't know the circumstances,” Foster said.
“What I do know is that from our perspective with Sammy is, the protocols are crystal clear.
“If it looks like you have taken a knock and then you fail a HIA, you go to a 12-day programme. That's pretty crystal clear to us.”
Asked if Whitelock had a history of concussion, Foster continued:
“To be fair, I'm not sure, but he has been around a while, so potentially. But I would say that would be pretty similar in both (Whitelock and Sexton) cases."
Pressed further on whether he was surprised that Sexton was in the mix to play against his side, Foster responded:
“Well, all I know is the protocols that we are trying to apply are pretty simple and clear to understand.”
Foster has made one positional and one personnel change to his starting team in light of Whitelock's absence. Scott Barrett reverts back to the second-row, with Dalton Papalii coming into the back-row.
Chiefs loosehead Aidan Ross and Highlanders scrum-half Folau Fakatava come onto the bench for their potential Test debuts, while Will Jordan and Patrick Tuipulotu are recalled in the other changes to last week's 23.
Brodie Retallick brushed off Ronan O'Gara's suggestion that Whitelock's absence would be worth 10-15 points to Ireland this weekend.
“He is a good player (Whitelock), isn’t he,” the Kiwi lock said.
“He is the second most capped All Black now so that is a wealth of experience. But I guess I will answer that on Saturday after the game.”
Foster acknowledged the significant loss of Whitelock, as he hailed the potential impact of Papalii on the blindside.
“Disappointing with Sammy,” Foster added.
“Sammy’s omission was pretty straightforward, so was Tupou’s (Vaa'i). Disappointed for him, he’s a form lock so it was a great opportunity but it is what it is.
“I think we flagged earlier that we were pretty keen to play around with Dalton at 6 and effectively went with the guys that had a bit of time last week to take the learnings on from last week to this week.
“He’s (Papalii) a different six isn’t he, but it’s a hard ground under a roof, we expect the game to be fast and I think Dalton’s a very physical player in his own right but he’s also very quick and he offers a different skill-set in that space. So, again, it’s a great opportunity for us to do that.”
New Zealand (team to play Ireland on Saturday) – J Barrett; S Reece, R Ioane, Q Tupaea, L Fainga'anuku; B Barrett, A Smith; G Bower, C Taylor, O Tu'ungafasi; B Retallick, S Barrett; D Papalii, S Cane (capt), A Savea. Reps: S Taukei’aho, A Ross, A Ta’avao, P Tuipulotu, P G Sowakula, F Fakatava, R Mo'unga, W Jordan.
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell believes the players who underperformed in last weekend's first Test defeat deserve a chance to put things right on Saturday night in Dunedin.
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Sitting in the hotel lobby yesterday, upon hearing the Irish accents, a woman took it upon herself to offer her ‘condolences’ for last weekend’s defeat. That’s how the locals roll around these parts.