The All Blacks are set to leave Perth for the third Bledisloe Cup match after previously being held back on player welfare grounds.
Stand-in All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock, influential halfback Aaron Smith and playmaker Richie Mo’unga are unlikely to travel with the All Blacks to Perth on Thursday for the third Bledisloe Cup test next week.
Following his reappointment as All Blacks head coach on Tuesday for a further two years, Ian Foster confirmed the timing of imminent baby arrivals in the Whitelock and Smith households may see both senior players remain in New Zealand when the team departs this week.
The Herald understands Mo’unga is in the same situation and will not board the plane on Thursday. That will leave the All Blacks needing a new captain for the third Bledisloe on either September 3 or 4, with Whitelock having assumed the role from injured openside Sam Cane and Smith leading the team against Fiji in Dunedin in July. In their absence, Ardie Savea may be considered the frontrunner to captain the All Blacks for the first time.
Hooker Codie Taylor is another candidate while Beauden Barrett captained the All Blacks once previously against the Barbarians.
Foster also confirmed other players – the Herald understands Crusaders lock Scott Barrett is expecting his first child – may return home early from the All Blacks’ near four-month tour.
Any players, such as Whitelock, Smith, and Mo’unga, who remain in New Zealand and then fly to Queensland for the remainder of the Rugby Championship may be forced into a hard quarantine which involves hotel isolation for two weeks. That situation would take the trio out of contention for the test All Blacks vs Pumas on the Gold Coast on September 12.