Rugby

NZR satisfied despite late-night All Blacks incident

An already tough week for the All Blacks has taken another turn, after vision of back-rower Ardie Savea and former Test scrum-half Justin Marshall needing to be separated emerged on social media.

The video shows Ioane needing to be held back by teammates while Marshall is restrained by injured winger Caleb Clarke.

It is understood the video was taken outside a Wellington bar where the All Blacks were commiserating their 2-1 series defeat by Ireland on Saturday night, New Zealand having earlier dropped the series-defining third Test 32-22 at Sky Stadium.

Despite the poor optics, NZR said it had been made aware of the incident shortly after it had taken place, and that it was satisfied with how the situation was handled.

“Our security was managing the group in a separate area at the venue,” an NZR statement read.

“We have contacted venue staff and spoken at length with players and security staff, who recall words being exchanged with another individual, as they were leaving. Our security proceeded to escort our players to their transport.

“Behaving responsibly is one of the core values in our team environment. The group were working to meet their curfew and when faced with a tricky situation, they did what they could to ensure everyone departed safely at the appropriate time.”

Ioane had earlier in the evening been a late addition to the All Blacks starting side after the withdrawal of Scott Barrett. The Blues back-rower had been one of his side’s best, too, scoring a powerful try as the hosts surged back into the contest after halftime.

Marshall played 81 Tests for the All Blacks and now serves as commentator with Sky, in which NZR has a 5% ownership stake.

The former Crusaders star later spoke of his concerns with the All Blacks selection policy in an interview with radio station SENZ, referencing Clarke’s hamstring injury as he described some of decisions from team management as confusing.

“There are players that are in that team that probably shouldn’t be there,” Marshall said.

“Now that’s a big statement I know, but I [wasn’t] utterly convinced about the players that were put in that side and that Ian Foster was trusting the All Blacks to go out there and win us a Test series against Ireland and therefore move on and win us a World Cup.

“There are lots of equations in the mix, like what the hell is Caleb Clarke doing there if his hamstring was never going to be right for the series?,” he added.

“There’s no point in having a guy there [that isn’t fit to play]. They didn’t need to name players that they couldn’t use. Why did they do that?”

The NZR Board had been due to meet on Wednesday to discuss what moves needed to be made in the wake of the series loss to Ireland, but that did not eventuate. It comes after NZR media manager Jo Malcolm revealed she was responsible for the cancellation of Foster’s Sunday press conference, a regular media spot for the All Blacks coach, win, lose or draw.

Chief executive Mark Robinson is believed to have met with the under-fire coach on Tuesday and while Foster is expected to retain his job, at least for the two-Test tour of South Africa to start the Rugby Championship, bolstering his support team may yet take place.

Former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took on a leading role while Foster was sidelined with COVID ahead of the first Test with the tourists, a match the All Blacks won, and it may prove that he takes on a mentoring role and sits above Foster’s various coaching assistants.

While many All Blacks fans are keen to see Foster replaced by six-time Super Rugby title winning Crusaders coach Scott Robertson, it seems unlikely either he nor NZR have the appetite for such a change so close to the tour of South Africa.

Asked about the All Blacks role earlier this week, Robertson reportedly issued a response of “no comment” when approached by various media organisations.

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