Australia vs New Zealand Bledisloe III: Sam Whitelock, Richie Mounga, Aaron Smith left behind in baby boom

Sam Whitelock and first-choice halves Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith have been left out of the All Blacks’ travelling squad for next week’s Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Perth with the players expecting babies.

Hooker Codie Taylor is expected to replace Whitelock as captain as the All Blacks attempt to sweep the series 3-0. Whitelock took over in New Zealand’s five Tests this season from regular captain Sam Cane, who is recovering from a pectoral injury.

Hooker Dane Coles also has been omitted from the traveling squad because of a calf muscle injury.

Whitelock, Smith and Mo’unga are expected to re-join the New Zealand team for matches next month in the Rugby Championship, depending on quarantine and other issues.

Beauden Barrett is the only specialist fly-half in the squad named on Thursday by head coach Ian Foster, as full-back Damian McKenzie provides fly-half cover.

Blues scrum-half Finlay Christie takes Smith’s place and Samisoni Taukeiaho will remain with the squad in place of Coles.

Joe Moody and Ofa Tuungafasi, who haven’t played a Test so far this season, will travel while they recover from injury and are among eight props in the touring squad.

After playing the Wallabies in Perth on September 4, the All Blacks will move to Queensland state for the remainder of the Rugby Championship and other players will join them there.

The squad will then move on to Europe, without returning to New Zealand, for an end-of-season tour which will likely keep players away from home for around 14 weeks.

There, they will face Wales, Italy, Ireland and France in successive weeks.

“We’ll be playing 10 Tests in 12 weeks in both the southern and northern hemispheres and with COVID-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, this will be a tour like no other for us in the professional era,” Foster said.

“We can’t wait to get underway and once again represent our country on the world stage.”

New Zealand travelling squad to face Australia:

Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Samisoni Taukeiaho, Codie Taylor, George Bower, Ethan de Groot, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tuungafasi, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tupou Vaai, Ethan Blackadder, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea, Hoskins Sotutu;

Backs: Finlay Christie, T.J. Perenara, Brad Weber, Beauden Barrett, Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Quinn Tupaea, Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie and Sevu Reece.

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