WELLINGTON — New Zealand’s preparations for the first Test against Ireland were thrown into disarray Monday after head coach Ian Foster, his assistant John Plumtree and two players tested positive for Covid-19.
Foster and Plumtree are undergoing home isolation while infected players David Havili and Jack Goodhue — who are both specialist midfield backs — have not joined the squad in Auckland ahead of Saturday’s series opener.
Braydon Ennor, who has played four Tests and is a teammate of Havili and Goodhue on Super Rugby Pacific champions the Canterbury Crusaders, was called in as cover.
New Zealand regulations require Covid-positive patients to undergo seven days of home isolation from when they first notice symptoms.
This potentially rules experienced pair Foster and Plumtree out of attending the Test at Eden Park, although it is unclear when their isolation periods began.
Foster said in a New Zealand Rugby statement he was confident in the team’s ability to prepare without himself and Plumtree.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The coaches who will now oversee the build-up are assistants Scott McLeod, Brad Mooar and Greg Feek.
New Zealand should have sufficient depth to adequately cover the absence of Havili and Goodhue, who have played 33 Tests between them.
Havili was considered a strong possibility to start the first Test but Waikato Chiefs midfield back Quinn Tupaea, who earned seven caps last year, is set to wear the No.12 jersey, forming a midfield combination with Rieko Ioane.
Goodhue had recently returned from injury and was regarded an unlikely prospect to start. — AFP