All Blacks to take 'strong' team to Australia

An earlier finish to the Rugby Championship could ensure the All Blacks take close to a full-strength squad to Australia.

According to reports, several All Blacks could opt not to play in the tournament for family reasons.

If the Rugby Championship finished on 12 December, as originally planned, and the All Blacks flew back to New Zealand on the 13th, they would only be out of quarantine on the 27th and miss Christmas with their families.

However, All Blacks coach Ian Foster told that plans were well advanced to have the Rugby Championship finished by 5-6 December, which would allow the All Blacks to be home with their families by the 19th.

'Every player is going to be slightly different,' he said. 'But I haven’t heard from any player they’re not coming [to Australia]. What I’ve heard from some players is they’ve got some questions, and that’s a completely different thing and purely natural.'

When asked if he expected to take a full-strength squad to Australia, Foster said he was 'absolutely confident'.

'But bear in mind I haven’t spoken to 35 players yet,' he added. 'Are we confident we’ll take, if not a 100% proof, pretty close? Yes, I am.

'You need to know while people are focusing on the negatives, there is also a massive degree of excitement we’re actually going to play some Test matches.

'The negatives aren’t insurmountable. They’re just things we’ve got to work through. I’m very confident we’re going to take a strong team to Australia.'

Meanwhile, flyhalf Richie Mo’unga – one of the players who could have skipped the Rugby Championship for family reasons – confirmed he would be available for selection.

'I had discussions with my wife [Sophie] and family that I’m lucky enough to have had a month with my baby [Billie]; she turned four weeks on Sunday,' Mo’unga said.

'But I do realise I am a footy player and I have a duty, and that’s to play for Canterbury, and hopefully the All Blacks.'