25 Oct 2020

Savea to rejoin All Blacks 'late this week'

2:52 pm on 25 October 2020

The All Blacks are planning for Ardie Savea and Nepo Laulala to be "ready and available" for the fourth and final Bledisloe Cup test in Brisbane.

Ardie Savea scores a try and celebrates with team mates Beauden Barrett and Shannon Frizell and Anton Lienert-Brown in the Bledisloe Cup test match at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand. Sunday 18 October 2020

Ardie Savea celebrates with Beauden Barrett, Shannon Frizell and Anton Lienert-Brown during the second Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

Savea and Laulala didn't travel with the All Blacks squad to Sydney on Sunday as they are both on paternity leave.

"Ardie's baby boy's arrived so he'll be joining us late this week," All Blacks coach Ian Foster said.

"I'm not sure of the exact day, they're sorting that out, but he'll be over this weekend for us.

"Nep's baby hasn't been born yet so we'll let that happen first and then we'll plan accordingly.

"But the plan is that they're ready and available for the second Bled over there."

Wellington loose forward Du'Plessis Kirifi and Otago prop George Bower have travelled with the squad as cover for this Saturday's third Bledisloe Cup test in Sydney.

"Both players have really earned their call-up over the last 12 months and I can't wait to start working with them," Foster said.

All Blacks loose forward Hoskins Sotutu during the 1st Bledisloe Cup test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Australia - SkySport Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand.  10  October  2020

Hoskins Sotutu in action in the first Bledisloe Cup test in Wellington. Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

Neither are likely to be part of the All Blacks' 23 on Saturday, while Hoskins Sotutu is the front-runner to replace Savea at number eight, after impressing off the bench in the first two tests.

"He's done the job that we've given him really, really well," Foster said.

"So I guess now we've just got to go back and have a look and say 'okay do we keep him in that role or do we change a few things around'.

Foster has made it clear Sotutu isn't the only option for the number eight jersey.

"I thought Akira (Ioane) was good yesterday and he's been good in training and we've also been impressed with Cullen (Grace) and the quiet work that he's going about doing so we've got some nice choices."

Veteran prop Joe Moody is "tracking really well" as he goes through head injury assessment protocols.

"We haven't actually been able to put him through any rugby training yet but the signs are really positive.

"Today when we get over there and tomorrow he'll go through his normal return to play protocols."

Joe Moody during the captain's run ahead of the second Bledisloe Cup rugby union test at Eden Park on Saturday 17 October 2020

All Blacks prop Joe Moody Photo: Photosport Ltd 2020

Ian Foster says it's a unique challenge playing the same opposition in four tests in a row.

"We've just got to keep our eye on the ball there and we know that we obviously moved from test one to two, so did Aussie.

"And we know that getting back there this next one is going to be huge. It's do or die for them and [in] many ways it's do or die for us."

New Zealand lead one-nil in the four test series after winning the second match at Eden Park, following an opening draw in Wellington.

"We've got a pretty short term focus and that Bledisloe remains our nuimber one priority and then after that we'll start thinking about Argentina.

"It's not something we've had to do often. Never really had to go back and win the Bledisloe over in Australia. The way the draw has been the last decade we've always played [in] Aussie first so the big crunch games have generally been back in New Zealand. Now it's in Sydney."