The All Blacks have announced just three players will be returning to New Zealand early this morning after the side's shock loss to Argentina on Saturday.
All Blacks head coach Ian Foster confirmed prop Ofa Tuungafasi, loose forward Du'Plessis Kirifi and midfielder Peter Umaga-Jensen were the trio heading back to New Zealand today.
"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.
"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."
Tuungafasi leaves the squad after his season was ended by a three-week suspension for the red card he earned in the All Blacks' 24-22 loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane just under two weeks ago.
Kirifi and Umaga-Jensen on the other hand depart having ventured to Australia as potential replacement options for Foster.
Foster had hinted at players leaving the squad early last week but that was before Saturday's shock 25-15 defeat to Argentina - the All Blacks' first loss to the Pumas in history.
The All Blacks coach said the decision is the best for everyone.
"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."
The 35-man squad now have a bye before their final Tri-Nations Test on Saturday 28 November which will also be against Argentina.