All Blacks coach Foster sees value in Tonga test
New Zealand’s 102-0 hammering of an understrength Tonga side might have been described as “a sad state of affairs” by one local newspaper but coach Ian Foster thought it a valuable runout to kickoff the season.
Foster is under pressure after delivering only a 50 per cent win rate in his first season in charge last year and was delighted with what his side showed in Saturday’s record-equalling romp.
“We certainly got a lot out of that,” he said at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium. “We played a limited structure and I thought our skill level within that was really good.”
Tonga, without most of their Europe-based regulars, started nine debutants and struggled to contain the All Blacks when the home backline hit top gear.
Winger Will Jordan scored five of their 16 tries as the All Blacks matched their record drubbing of the Tongans across town in Albany 21 years ago.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch but I thought our handling in these conditions was good, some of our lines (of running) were good,” Foster added.
“There were some areas where we got a bit loose. Some of that was due to the pressure Tonga put us under and some of it was that we just got a bit flippant in the way we played.”
New Zealand, who were originally scheduled to host Italy for two Tests before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, round out their July campaign with Tests against Fiji in Dunedin and Hamilton over the next two weekends.
While the lopsided scoreline will only fuel the debate about how best to support Pacific islands rugby, Foster thought on-field engagement was a step in the right direction.
“It’s great to be playing the Pacific island nations again,” he said.
“A lot will be made of the score but people have to look beyond that. It was a great opportunity to reignite our rivalry with Tonga and we’re really looking forward to Fiji next week.
“The best way to support them is to play them.”
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