All Blacks: Coach Ian Foster begins preparations for end-of-year tour

Dylan Coetzee

All Blacks coach Ian Foster is already looking ahead to their Northern Hemisphere tour at the end of the year despite only winning the Rugby Championship title this weekend.

Foster’s men did exceptionally well to recover from a losing start to the tournament and a mass of media pressure to go on to win the title after back-to-back wins against the Wallabies in the final two rounds.

Unlike previous years there were only two Tests in this year’s Bledisloe Cup which will go a long way in allowing the players to be more fresh heading into the end-of-year Tests.

Four Tests to play

The All Blacks play four Tests in October and November, starting with a trip to Tokyo to face Japan’s Brave Blossoms on November 6 before facing Wales a week later in Cardiff on November 6.

Foster’s men will face Scotland in their third Test at Murrayfield on November 14 before a massive Test against England at Twickenham on November 20.

The coach is looking forward to their tour as it will give him and the coaching staff a clear picture heading into next year’s World Cup in France.

“We’re going to get really stuck into this northern hemisphere tour,” Foster told the All Blacks Official Website.

“It’s important we finish that in a position that we’ve got a really clear picture of what we’re going to do because next year’s pretty thin when you look at our prep before a World Cup,” he said.

Foster is still looking for a complete performance from his side for the full 80-minutes, having paid the price for sloppy periods during the Rugby Championship.

“It takes a while to get people to understand that you knock off for half a second in a Test match, you get punished.

“We’ve seen signs in the last two months that we had a lot of good spells in games, but we just didn’t quite get the fact that if you don’t nail every little moment you get hurt. And once you get hurt on the scoreboard then it becomes hard to catch up.”

The 57-year-old believes his side would have gained confidence after going through all the media pressure to emerge as champions.

“We’ve proven to ourselves that we can climb through adversity, and there’ll be more to come.

“That’s what international rugby is about.

“I’m proud of the way the team’s dealt with the pressure of not performing to the level we want and the pressure that comes with that,” Foster said.

Foster praised Jordie Barrett’s versatility after the star made a huge impact at inside centre against Australia in the final Bledisloe Test.

“What a great athlete. He’s played well for us at fullback and on the wing and now has played really well at 12 [second five-eighths]. He certainly had a big impact last night.”

Praise for Ethan de Groot’s commitment

The tactician also commended the development of front-row players in the squad, singling out Ethan de Groot’s efforts to improve his fitness levels and earn a recall after initially being left out of the squad.

“It’s been a journey for them too. You can go back and talk about Ethan [de Groot], for example, and his journey from Super Rugby and then us having to spend six weeks getting him to the fitness levels he needed to do. But the real message is that if you’re wanting to do the work off the park then there’s opportunity. And he has taken that well.”

In addition to their four Tests at the end of the year, the All Blacks will face a Ronan O’Gara and Scott Robertson-coached Barbarians side at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on November 13.

READ MORE: Rugby Championship Team of the Tournament: All Blacks dominate selection after title-winning campaign