All Blacks v Ireland: NZ coach Ian Foster unfazed by trio of Kiwi-born Ireland players

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has no issues with the trio of New Zealand-born starters in Ireland's ranks, when the two sides meet at Dublin on Sunday morning (NZ time).

James Lowe, Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park will line up in green, after completing their residency-based eligibility periods and playing professionally in their adopted nation.

Former Chiefs and Māori All Blacks winger Lowe starts for Ireland on the left wing for his eighth test cap, four years after swapping New Zealand for club side Leinster.

Ex-Chiefs centre Aki will log his 33rd test appearance for Ireland, after signing with Connacht in 2014, while ex-Māori All Blacks, Blues and Hurricanes halfback Gibson-Park will start in the No. 9 jersey, after joining Leinster's ranks in 2016. 

Gibson-Park has played 11 tests for Ireland since debuting last year.

All three players were born in New Zealand, but have qualified to play for Ireland through World Rugby residency rules.

The All Blacks have lined up against former Kiwis before on this tour, with former Crusaders fullback Johnny McNicholl, and ex-Blues and Chiefs first-five Gareth Anscombe also playing for Wales in Cardiff two weeks ago.

Wales would likely have selected former Hurricanes midfielder Willis Halaholo, but he was scratched from the fixture after testing positive for COVID-19.

Despite the ethical dilemma of European sides selecting players who've qualified through residency rules, All Blacks coach Foster has no problem with players opting to play test rugby for adopted nations.

"All I'm going to say is that they're Kiwis in one sense, but they're Irish now," Foster says. "I don't really want to talk too much about the opposition - they're three people that've made a decision. 

"They play for Ireland, what will be and what could have been is irrelevant."

But while debate rages over World Rugby eligibility rules, Foster insists players' decisions have to be respected.

Lowe, Aki and Gibson-Park were unlikely to have challenged for All Blacks test selection, but the professional era allows them to experience the international game - regardless of what jersey they're wearing.

"The rules are the rules,” adds Foster. “Those three - like a number of others - have made a decision and made a decision to be Irish.

"There's not much point speculating about whether they would have been good enough to make it in New Zealand or not.

"I don't really want to spend any time on that, because they're the ones that made the call."

The All Blacks themselves aren't exempt from selecting foreign-born players either. 

Born in Fiji, Sevu Reece starts on the wing for the All Blacks against Ireland, while Tongan-born Samisoni Taukei'aho has made his test debut in 2021, after moving to play schoolboy rugby in Hamilton.

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