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'He's running around like a very quick fly': All Black impresses after first start

By Finn Morton

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The All Blacks returned to winning ways on Sunday morning [NZT] with an emphatic 90-point win over the United States in Washington DC.

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Playing at FedEx Field, the home of the Washington Football Team, the All Blacks got off to the perfect start. Luke Jacobson crossed for the opening score just 29 seconds into the Test, with a well-worked team try from the kick-off.

It was one way traffic for practically the whole test, with the heavily favoured All Blacks running in 16 tries to two. But those two tries made history for the Eagles, with Nate Augspurger’s effort in the 40th minute the first try scored by the United States against the All Blacks ever.

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When Benji Marshall smashed the Blues squad by 20 minutes in training
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When Benji Marshall smashed the Blues squad by 20 minutes in training

But All Blacks selectors may have some big decisions to make ahead of the Welsh Test next weekend, with a number of players standing up and impressing. This comes after 11 members of the squad left the United States early to prepare for the upcoming four European matches.

“As a group of selectors we went into that game looking probably at three or four positions specifically,” Foster said following the 104-14 win.

“I was really pleased with the performance of a whole lot of the team overall but there were some players that showed that they want to play and that’s exciting for us.”

Other than captain Sam Whitelock, who just played his 128th Test, the most experienced forward in the starting side was Prop Angus Ta’avao, who ran out for his 20th international cap against the States.

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The average amount of Test caps in the starting backline going into the match was also 14 per player, with Finlay Christie and Braydon Ennor both named for their first starts in the black jersey. Prop Ethan de Groot was also named for his first start, and third cap overall.

While all three players were among the standouts in the Test, Christie is deserving of a mention. The Blues scrumhalf received an 8.5 rating in Mike Rehu’s player ratings for this week.

Christie was everywhere, had two try assists to his name, and his composure around the park was impactful as well.

“He continues to grow I think, and he’s fun to watch isn’t he because he’s all arms and legs and he’s running around like a very quick fly. He’s just buzzing around all over the place,” Foster said.

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“He’s getting better and better. I think the thing that I really did enjoy about him was his defence and some of his defensive reads for a small man were excellent.

“The other one who had his first start…Ethan de Groot. Got an early try which he was pretty excited about but great to see him getting good minutes. And like I’ve said, he’s a young man who we’ve been very impressed with so delighted with him as well.”

Starting in an inexperienced midfield combination, Ennor was also one of the players who shone brightest throughout the convincing win.

While he didn’t cross for a try, every time he got his hands on the ball, the 24-year-old looked a chance of making something happen.

But after switching to the wing during the match and then impressing, his versatility may come into play during the upcoming Tests.

“Really delighted for him actually. Trained well lately and desperate for an opportunity and you know, I thought he played well at centre,” Foster said. “I thought he probably played even a little bit better when he went on the wing.

“He shows us that there’s two positions there that he really wants to be part of so I was pleased for him. Defended strongly, always makes good decisions defensively.

“This was a game that he had a few more touches to get his attack part of his game going and it’s nice to see him starting to run and distribute the way that we want him to.”

Lining up alongside Quinn Tupaea, the two had just six Test caps between them ahead of this match. But they did what they needed to and clearly impressed Foster.

“I thought Quinn tidied up a lot of situations and then he showed a lot of, he knows his game very well and he doesn’t try to overplay his hand but he sticks to what he does really, really well.

“He’s a young man, he’s growing, and again both of those two I thought should be pretty proud of their effort.”

The All Blacks are set to face 2021 Six Nations champions Wales at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Sunday morning [NZT], in the first of four matches against European opposition.

They’re also set to face Italy and Ireland, before a blockbuster clash against 2023 Rugby World Cup hosts France at Stade de France in Paris – less than two years before the two sides are set to face in pool play at the tournament.

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'He's running around like a very quick fly': All Black impresses after first start

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