With four players in line to make their test debuts for the All Blacks this weekend, All Blacks coach Ian Foster has been clear with his message to his playing group.
“The key thing is not to get over-aroused and go try and feel like you’ve got to be Superman.”
Akira Ioane is the only guaranteed test debutant, starting at blindside flanker in place of Shannon Frizell. Will Jordan, Cullen Grace and Asafo Aumua are all set to play a role off the bench against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday.
With the All Blacks taking a large squad to Australia for the Tri-Nations which included a host of uncapped players, it seemed inevitable that many of them would return to New Zealand officially as test rugby players.
And as the All Blacks locked away the Bledisloe Cup for the 18th year in a row last weekend, their final clash against the Wallabies has provided the perfect chance for Foster to go deeper into his squad.
“If you look through some of the new names…they’ve just really got to do what they’ve done in order to get here,” Foster said.
“They’ve learnt a lot over the past three or four weeks about how we operate and all we ask of them is to trust that, trust their own skill set and use their intuition that they’ve developed over a number of years to just back themselves in the heat of the moment. That’s all we ask, then we work on bits and pieces after that.
“There’s always little errors that happen with every player, but particularly with new players. But it is exciting to see them come in and get their opportunity, and we have a lot of faith in that whole group.”
Foster has chosen to run with a relatively green test side for Saturday’s game, with eight of the match-day 23 having played fewer than 10 tests.
The side will be tasked with backing up from the All Blacks’ biggest-ever win over the Wallabies, with the New Zealand outfit decimating their hosts 43-5 in Sydney last weekend.
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It’s an unusual situation where they find themselves face the same opposition for a fourth straight match, and Foster said it forced the side to think hard about how to approach such a stretch.
“None of us had really done it before and we looked at a whole lot of things, then we decided to come up with a cunning plan of taking one at a time,” Foster explained.
“It’s almost been like, you get out of bed on Monday and think ‘OK, let’s forget who we played before. At the end of this week, there’s an All Blacks-Wallabies game.’
“We’ve tried to keep it that simple – at the end of this week we’re playing the Wallabies. It’s always been a special game for the All Blacks, we know it’s a big occasion and it’s got the added complications or advantages – whichever way you want to look at it – of we both know each other pretty well at the moment and that bring with it some challenges, but it also brings some opportunities.
“We’ve just got to make sure we keep applying the lessons we’ve learnt about them and ourselves and keep growing the game. That’s certainly our expectations for Saturday night. It’s a real focus for this team to try keep lifting its performance. I know it’s tough, but that’s what being an All Black is all about and we have to try to meet those standards.”
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