New Zealand have confirmed that three players Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Peter Umaga-Jensen will head back to the country from the ongoing Rugby Championship campaign.
Tu'ungafasi is currently serving a three-week ban following his red-card incident during the second game of the tournament against Australia which effectively ruled him out of the remainder of tournament along with the opening round of the Super Rugby Aotearoa next year.
Umaga-Jensen joined the squad as a cover following Braydon Ennor's injury and was part of the bench during the second game against Australia while Kirifi was added to the squad this month.
New Zealand head coach Ian Foster reckons releasing the players early will give them sufficient time to prepare for the new season with their respective clubs.
“Because of the unique challenges of the tournament, with a number of test matches over consecutive weeks and the ever-changing world of Covid-19 quarantining, we brought a bigger squad than normal to Australia,” Foster said in a statement.
“But we had always intended to send a few players back at this stage of the tournament, based on whether or not we had injuries.
“The advantage for the three players heading home is that they will get an extra two weeks of pre-season training and return to their Super Rugby clubs early.
"It also means we aren’t compromising our own preparation in the build-up for what will be a very important final test of the year for us.”