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'A little bit of an uppercut for us': Ian Foster on the All Blacks biggest weakness

By Ben Smith
(Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

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Head coach Ian Foster has revealed what he believes to be the All Blacks‘ biggest weakness as the side begins preparations for July’s blockbuster series against Ireland.

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In a wide-ranging interview with The All Blacks Podcast, Foster explained that, throughout history, New Zealand’s premier rugby team has had two clear advantages over their opposition: speed and skill.

However, he said that in these two areas, other competitions and teams around the world have been catching up as they put their efforts into becoming faster sides.

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As such, Foster told The All Blacks Podcast that speed and skill are the two “work on” aspects of New Zealand’s game that need improvement.

“Wow, I’m probably a glass half-full guy so I’m looking at the positives,” Foster said when asked by a fan question what the biggest weaknesses were.

“What are our biggest weaknesses, I think there are certainly some ‘work-on’ areas.

“There are two aspects that we have historically been number one in the world on.

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“One is speed, and I’m talking about speed around the park and speed to do things, and the other one has been our skill level.

“Generally, All Black players have been really, really skilful, and we just think those are the two areas that other teams and other competitions are starting to catch up, they are putting a lot of effort in those areas.”

After losing their final two tests of last year against Ireland and France, Foster said those results came against teams that he described as fast and skilful, to the point that the All Blacks couldn’t match them on those fronts.

“I look at the experience last year, we had a great Rugby Championship, went really well, then went up to the UK. We weren’t able to be fast in those last two tests,” he explained.

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“We played two teams that were fast. Two teams that were really quite skilful with their forwards and their backs.”

Foster added that those results were “a little bit of an uppercut” for the All Blacks and suggested there may have been things that his side took for granted in the lead-up to those losses.

“It’s just a little bit of an uppercut for us, really. Some things we have taken for granted has been sort of, ‘That’s the All Blacks, that’s just natural’,” he said.

“We are getting players through that are having to learn that stuff at the international stage to keep climbing the level. The work we are doing at the Super Rugby franchises [is] outstanding, but we have to keep driving that.”

The first challenge of the year for the All Blacks is the Irish tour, where they will get the chance to make amends for the result in Dublin last November.

Foster explained that this series outlined the importance of the series as a learning tool where they will experiment with their ideas to combat strong Northern Hemisphere teams.

“The Irish series is going to be vital. What’s great for us is we are still hurting from the last two, last year,” Foster said.

“We are pretty proud of what we did last year but the last two hurt. So we’ve got to take those lessons but we can go straight into it.

“We know we’ve got an Irish team that is largely based around Leinster, they’re in the European Championship final. They’ve got a lot of cohesion in that team and they will be really prepared.

“We’ve got a series with some real meat in it. Potentially in the past, we’ve had tired teams come down here. This is going to be a fantastic test for us.

“What I really love about it is, we are able to test some of our ideas to play Northern Hemisphere teams and those tight teams like South Africa.

“It’s all going to happen in July-August for us, with three against Ireland two against South Africa in South Africa, so we don’t have to wait til the end of the year to try some things out. It shortens our time to learn before the World Cup.

“We are going to get some real lessons early.”

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