All Blacks head coach Ian Foster was full of praise for his team after a strong 55-23 win over Wales in Cardiff, extending their record over the country.
Foster’s men put in a sublime performance and are finally starting to string some wins together after what has been a rocky Test season in 2022.
The head coach was delighted with Savea’s performance and underlined the Hurricane’s importance to the All Blacks set-up.
“He’s playing pretty good,” said Foster. “For someone who hasn’t played for a while he didn’t show any rust out there at all. He carried strong. He’s an inspirational part of this team, and leads really well off the field just through his actions.
“When you see your loose forwards play like that it’s always going to be reflective of a pretty dominant pack up front, and I’m sure he’d say that too. It was a pretty strong collective effort up front and he was able to put a little bit of icing on the cake.”
One highlight of Savea’s performance was an exaggerated and outrageous dummy which resulted in veteran Aaron Smith scoring his second try of the clash.
“He’s sucked me in on the training field too, so they shouldn’t feel too bad about that,” said Foster. “He just likes to express himself, and we quite like it when he expresses himself.”
Smith broke the record for the most capped All Black back in history with 113 Tests and marked his performance with a brace, including a magnificent solo effort.
Foster was delighted that the scrum-half could score in his milestone game and highlighted that Smith is a key figure for the All Blacks.
“It was a pretty special occasion for him, and to show off with a couple of meat pies would be pleasing for him,” said Foster. “He doesn’t score too many, and those little legs had to run a long way for that first one.
“He’s a massive part of our team and when he gets a flow on he will say it’s reflective of the ball that was delivered up. There were some stages Wales made that hard for him, but I think we overcame that.”
Taylor shows his class
There were some question marks about Codie Taylor being given a starting role ahead of Samisoni Taukei’aho, but the Crusader paid back the faith in full with a brace of his own.
Foster was pleased with how Taylor has built up his form and emphasised how important the star is as a leader for other hookers in the squad.
“I thought he built really well on his Eden Park performance (against Australia). We took him out for a couple of weeks just to make sure when he came back onto this stage he was ready and confident. He went away and took the lessons of a couple of poor performances, worked hard on them, and he’s come back and is just looking really clear at the moment,” he said.
“He supplies great leadership up front and that 1-2 punch with Soni (Samisoni Taukei’aho) is a pretty powerful one. We still love Soni starting as well, but it’s about building options as we go forward, and we’re delighted. Part of the puzzle was getting him back playing the way we know he can play.”
Papali’i steps in brilliantly
Blues skipper Dalton Papali’i stepped in for the injured All Blacks captain Sam Cane and showed his class with an industrious display against Wales.
“I thought he showed that last year,” added Foster. “It’s a bit tough when you’re sitting behind the skipper I guess, but whenever he’s been asked to do what he needs to do, he’s played well for us. He’s a different style of 7 but was abrasive today, and he brings something different to our pack which is exciting for us.”
The All Blacks travel to Scotland next in their Autumn Nations Series campaign for a fascinating Test at Murrayfield.