Will Ian Foster try and fight fire with fire the next time the All Blacks come up against England?
At last year’s Rugby World Cup, England dominated the breakdowns and collisions in their semi-final match up with New Zealand and Foster likely learned from that match that there’s simply no substitute for size and power.
Following the announcement of the first All Blacks team of the year, there’s reason to believe that the new head coach could be trying to add a bit of mass not just to the pack, but to the squad as a whole.
Men like Hoskins Sotutu and Caleb Clarke have physically dominated their opposition on more than a few occasions during the Super Rugby season and the national selectors have rewarded that form with first-time call-ups.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Podcast, one-cap All Black Josh Ioane mused that Foster may well be hoping to counter incredible power of the likes of the English by bringing in some of New Zealand’s biggest power players.
“I think, with those Blues boys, they just bring that real physical presence. With Hoskins, Patty [Tuipulotu], Akira [Ioane], Caleb – they’ve got that real physical presence.
“Especially against teams like the Boks who are a real physical team, I think those boys will really suit matching those types of players.”
Brad Weber, who watched the World Cup semi from the sidelines was quick to point out that Foster won’t want to sacrifice the high tempo play that the All Blacks are known for, however.
“Fozzie knows that it’s all well and good picking big guys but you still need to play at speed for 80 minutes with good fitness,” Weber said.
“He’s rewarded form, which is great, but I’m sure Fozzie will still be keen to play fast and up-tempo and I’m sure he’s confident the guys he’s picked can run that style of play, no matter what size they are – it just so happens that some of the boys we’ve spoken about earlier are pretty big.”
While their size may well be one of their greatest strengths, Ioane and Sotutu certainly showed off their fitness and finer skills in the North v South clash played over the weekend – including one exceptional linking play that saw both players carry and offload in contact to ignite the North’s attack.
However Foster chooses to employ the All Blacks’ newly added physical behemoths, Ioane and Weber are simply excited to see the young players in the environment shine.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 7, 2020
The selectors have opted for seven uncapped players in the squad – as well as two who have played mid-week matches for the All Blacks but no tests.
“I feel like [Foster’s] gone with a few young boys and that’s good for development in the coming years, potentially the next World Cup,” Ioane said.
“In terms of style of play, I don’t think it’s clear at this stage – but there’s definitely plenty of potential and excitement there.”
“Yeah it does [bode well for the future],” said Weber.
“There’s a lot of guys probably still hurting from the loss last year and they’ll be really motivated to get on the waka and start getting some wins under our belt to build for that next World Cup. There’s probably nothing scarier for international rugby teams than a wounded All Blacks side. There’s certainly a lot of motivation there.”
While nothing concrete has been confirmed, New Zealand are expected to play a handful of matches in the coming months – including an extended test series against Australia.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now