All the debate over where the favouritism sits ahead of this year’s opening Bledisloe Cup encounter in Sydney next weekend is irrelevant.
That was the word from All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster ahead of the All Blacks’ ‘Game of Three Halves’ in Christchurch on Friday.
“All I know is we’ve never had an easy game in Sydney and we’ve had a couple of games in my time when the score’s blown out a couple of times and we’ve also been on the back of a couple of losses, so I think that’s probably all we need to focus on,” he told the All Blacks’ official website.
“They’re building and they’re pretty energetic about this game and we need to be as well.”
The Australians would take some confidence from the way the Waratahs finished their Super Rugby campaign. There had been some special patches of rugby in the last two or three weeks but the All Blacks management felt there was more of a pointer from the way they played in a competitive series against Ireland in June and that was where most of their analysis was focused.
It had been a physical series with Ireland looking to take Australia on in close quarter play while Australia would have been happier playing with more width and it had developed into a close series which could just as easily have been 3-0 to Australia or 2-1 to either side.
So far as New Zealand’s dead rubber 23-18 loss to Australia in Brisbane last year was concerned it had been a poor Test from their point of view as the side did not have the edge it needed whereas Australia did and they had absorbed how much the win meant to them.
“What we have taken from last year is that they are a quality team and their ability to play at a level that can upset us is there and we’ve just got to make sure that we don’t go in expecting them to play poorly and go in at the top of our game,” said Foster.
As for Friday evening Foster said there were a number of players the selectors needed to see have a good hit out not having played for a little while and the game would also be a chance to see how everyone shaped after the campaigns they had been involved in.
They were keen that the Crusaders, as the last finishers in the Super Rugby competition have as few minutes as possible, if they played at all.
Foster said given where they were at in comparison to last season at the same time they felt they were in a good position but there was plenty of work to be done before Saturday next week.
“There are some things we want to get out of tomorrow,” he added.
“The primary thing is the physical side of the game to make sure the guys get used to getting tackled and running hard.
“There’ll be some things we’ll put out there with an eye to Sydney just to see what they look like and I guess there’re a couple of combinations we will try but I’d rather not document that at the moment.”
Ardie Savea, who missed the last part of the Super Rugby competition with the Hurricanes, had come through last week’s camp well and had another week under his belt this week.
There was still some understanding of their loose forward resources being sought by the selectors.
“Certainly from the loose forwards there’s a lot of learning from us as coaches about how they go and a lot of learning from them about how they fit in so that’s going to be an evolving beast throughout this campaign,” said Foster.