All Blacks coach Ian Foster conceded Saturday the July home Tests against Wales and Scotland are likely to be scrapped as borders are locked down in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The official word from the three countries is that the Tests “are still planned for” but Foster said he cannot see them going ahead.
“If you look at the probability, there’s a reasonably good chance that international travel and borders won’t be down across the world at that point, so in that case the All Blacks won’t be playing in July,” he told Radio Newstalk ZB.
Foster added they could not keep international players at a level of match fitness just in case because “they’ll just blow out mentally and get really frustrated with that because there’s so much uncertainty”.
“We want the players to settle down then we’ll start expecting fitness levels to be at a certain point that when the lockdown finishes and we do start to think about a starting point for rugby again.”
With New Zealand in lockdown until the end of April at least, the Super Rugby sides have indicated it could be several weeks before they are ready to resume the southern hemisphere club championship.
“We know for every week that we don’t have rugby training we need to have a week of rugby training to replace it when we get back together,” Simon Thomas, the strength and conditioning coach with the champion Canterbury Crusaders, told Stuff.
While rugby is on hold, Foster’s coaching team and players face pay cuts as New Zealand Rugby looks to trim costs.
“Our coaching group has definitely taken a big cut, it’s already been agreed to. With rugby, when there’s no games there’s no revenue, and that’s a tough thing,” he said.
“I haven’t had one player yet who doesn’t know it’s going to happen or doesn’t accept that it’s going to happen.”
But when the restrictions are eased, Foster will be pushing for as much game time as the All Blacks can get.
“When the curtain goes up and it’s time to play, and the borders are open, there will be a lot of desire to get the international game going, particularly from the southern hemisphere teams,” he said.
“We’ll be keen to play as much as we can because that’s how you can generate some big money, and we can start to recoup some stuff.”