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‘You don’t expect to lose your coaches, getting snipered’ – Greg Feek latest Kiwi coach to have Covid

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Skills coach Andrew Strawbridge, left, and asistant coach Joe Schmidt during New Zealand rugby squad training at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Skills coach Andrew Strawbridge, left, and asistant coach Joe Schmidt during New Zealand rugby squad training at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Skills coach Andrew Strawbridge, left, and asistant coach Joe Schmidt during New Zealand rugby squad training at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The All Blacks have been rocked by another positive Covid case, as scrum coach Greg Feek has become the latest backroom member to be struck down.

Ian Foster, who conducted the team announcement press conference from isolation, revealed afterwards that Feek will not be at Eden Park for Saturday's first Test against Ireland. Foster, however, hopes to be cleared to be in the coaches' box.

Feek's positive test comes on the back of head coach Foster and his assistants John Plumtree and Scott McLeod testing positive, while backs Will Jordan, David Havili and Jack Goodhue have also contracted Covid.

Feek's loss will come as a particular blow considering the inside track he has on the Ireland scrum, having spent five years as part of the set-up, as well as four years with Leinster.

“It’s been definitely different in this All Black environment," All Blacks hooker Codie Taylor admitted.

"You don’t expect to lose your coaches, getting snipered and taken out, but I think from the year we’ve had in Super Rugby we’ve had some things happen and so the boys rolled on with it.

“The management had contingency plans for this to happen, so quite smooth given the scenario we’ve been put in and we’ve called on a few familiar faces with different coaches and they’ve really added their input and helped as well.”

Foster has handed a debut to winger Leicester Fainga'anuku, who replaces his Crusaders colleague Jordan, while Pita Gus Sowakula is in line for his first appearance from the bench. Richie Mo'unga has been passed fit after he missed training earlier this week with a stomach bug.

The New Zealand team is locked and loaded for the first Test, with Fainga'anuku joining Jordie Barrett and Sevu Reece in a potent back-three.

Quinn Tupaea partners Rieko Ioane in midfield, as veterans Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett renew their formidable half-back partnership.

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“It’s great to be back in camp and it’s a unique week that’s for sure with what’s been going on,” Beauden Barrett said.

“It’s been a great opportunity to become more connected than probably in previous years. We’ve been forced to lead probably a little bit more earlier in the week which has been great. It’s allowed us to step up and take a little bit more control early on in the week where the coaches would otherwise have a little bit more influence.

“Other than that it’s been a great week. We feel it’s been good for our connections, simplifying our game and also the opportunity to get out there at the weekend is one that we’re pretty pumped up about.”

Up front, George Bower, Codie Taylor and Ofa Tu'ungafasi are in the front-row, with Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock packing down in the engine room.

Scott Barrett switches from lock to the back-row alongside captain Sam Cane and No 8 Ardie Savea.

Sowakula is joined on the bench by Samisoni Taukei'aho, Karl Tu'inukuafe, Angus Ta'avao, Dalton Papalii, and backs Finlay Christie, Richie Mo'unga and Braydon Ennor.

“Whilst this week hasn’t exactly gone to plan for us, our overall preparation has gone really well,” Foster said.

“We’ve prepared rigorously for this match, albeit only having a ten-day period together.

“We have huge respect for this Irish team and can’t wait to run out onto a packed Eden Park on Saturday to kick off the Series.”

New Zealand – J Barrett; S Reece, R Ioane, W Tupaea, L Fainga'anuku; B Barrett, A Smith; G Bower, C Taylor, O Tu'ungafasi; B Retallick, S Whitelock; S Barrett, S Cane (capt), A Savea. Reps: S Taukei'aho, K Tu'inukuafe, A Ta'avao, P G Sowakula, D Papalii, F Christie, R Mo'unga, B Ennor.


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