Tuesday, May 17, 2022

All Blacks set to tour with European powers like no other

It’s an endurance battle that can be more challenging than the All Blacks face on the field during their rugby tour at the end of the year.

Players from the world’s most famous rugby team are on their 11th straight week of departure from New Zealand, and Challenges continue to appear on the tour like no other.

From rugby league matches in Australia in September and early October to a one-off match in the United States last week, the All Blacks are now in Europe ahead of four tests against some of the northern hemisphere’s top teams next month. …

The first will be Saturday’s match against Wales, which currently has the highest COVID-19 incidence of any country in the UK. Indeed, Wales’ New Zealand-born center Willis Halaholo was forced out of the match after testing positive for the virus on Tuesday.

The All Blacks did not need any care to deal with the harsh realities of touring during the pandemic.

Players and management wear masks everywhere and have their own elevator and back door at the command hotel outside of Cardiff. Hotel staff are not allowed to enter their rooms or even the dining room after they have prepared meals for lunch and dinner. The 7:00 AM coffee van arriving at the hotel is one of the “simple pleasures that keep us moving forward,” New Zealand’s assistant coach John Plumtree said Wednesday about the bubble that the tour group is working on.

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“If you walked into our environment and saw how the players are doing, you would admire them because it’s not easy,” Plumtree said. “They are all holding on very tightly, and they all understand the importance of being grateful that we can play on the world stage right now under these conditions.”

Playing in front of over 70,000 spectators at Principality Stadium on Saturday will feel like a world far from what is happening in New Zealand, which has since adopted an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus through lockdown and active contact tracing. at the start of a pandemic. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has been on lockdown for more than two months after the delta variant outbreak.

New Zealand has recorded 28 coronavirus-related deaths since the outbreak in early 2020. There have been 31 COVID-19-related deaths in the last 72-hour period, according to the latest data from the Wales Public Health Authority released on Tuesday. reported cases. Coronavirus deaths reported in England and Wales are on the rise again.

All New Zealand players must be negative before being allowed to play.

“We understand the risk,” Plumtree said. “We came from Washington, where the risk was probably a little lower, but we were still in the same bubble. But here, given the number of cases per day, players understand the associated risk and rise to it. “

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Plumtree added, “This is a way out of what we used to do on tour, especially in any rugby environment I’ve been in.”

New Zealand has Italy, Ireland and France ahead of it, but Wales needs to be sent first, and that’s usually not a problem. The Welsh have not beat the All Blacks since 1953 – 31 defeats in a row, including 16 at home.

Wales’s challenge has become even more challenging this week as the game moves beyond the fall international World Rugby window, which means Coach Wayne Pivak will be without players from England such as Dan Biggar, Taulupe Falletau and Louis Rhys-Zammit. that they were not released to their clubs.

Key players such as George North, Josh Navidi and Justin Tipurik were injured, and Halaholo, who is eligible to live in Wales, fell ill with COVID-19.

New Zealand is also coming into play after a 104-14 win over the United States on Saturday in Washington and a five-out of six rugby championship win.


Other AP Sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Nation World News Desk
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