Rugby-Under-fire Foster tweaks All Blacks squad for Rugby Championship

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - International Test - Wales v New Zealand - Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, Britain - October 30, 2021 New Zealand coach Ian Foster during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Rebecca Naden

(Reuters) - Under-fire All Blacks coach Ian Foster resisted wholesale changes to his squad for the Rugby Championship on Friday despite the furore that accompanied last weekend's loss of a home series to Ireland.

Loosehead prop Ethan de Groot and blindside flanker Shannon Frizell come into the squad at the expense of Karl Tu'inukuafe and Pita Gus Sowakula.

Despite media reports to the contrary, openside flanker Sam Cane has retained the captaincy for the championship, which starts for the All Blacks with two tests against the Springboks in South Africa.

Centre Braydon Ennor, prop Tyrel Lomax and uncapped lock Josh Dickson will join the squad on the trip to South Africa as cover respectively for Jack Goodhue, Angus Ta'avao and Brodie Retallick, who are injured or suspended.

Consecutive home losses to Ireland in their July series stunned New Zealand and put huge pressure on Foster, who has now led the All Blacks to only one win in their last five matches.

"There have been some thorough conversations this week, as there always are around our performance environments, and these will continue," said New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson.

"It's exciting to be heading back to South Africa for the first time in several years - we have two big games ahead of us there and our focus now is to support the team to improve performance and be successful."

Forwards - Codie Taylor, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Dane Coles, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, George Bower, Aidan Ross, Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax*, Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa'i, Scott Barrett, Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Dickson*, Sam Cane, Dalton Papalii, Shannon Frizell, Ardie Savea, Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu,

Backs - Aaron Smith, Folau Fakatava, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Stephen Perofeta, Richie Mo'unga, Rieko Ioane, Jack Goodhue, Quinn Tupaea, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, David Havili, Braydon Ennor*, Leicester Fainga'anuku, Caleb Clarke, Sevu Reece, Jordie Barrett, Will Jordan

* South Africa tests only

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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