Ian Foster under public pressure to deliver amid rising concerns
The All Blacks beat Fiji 57-23 in the first test last weekend but the scoreline was deceptive as hooker Dane Coles came off the bench to score four second-half tries and make the win seem more emphatic than it was.
Fans have since expressed concern about the manner in which the Fiji team won the physical battle against New Zealand, outplaying the All Blacks at breakdowns where they won at least nine turnovers and several penalties.
The level of physicality has been a recurring theme for the All Blacks in recent years, highlighted in their semi-final loss to England at the 2019 World Cup.
Foster, previously an assistant to Steve Hansen, took over as head coach after the World Cup in Japan in what New Zealand Rugby has styled as a planned succession.
Foster expressed some satisfaction with his team’s first test performance and less concern than others about the breakdown dysfunction.
But he expects improvement on Saturday when the All Blacks field a team closer to his strongest available lineup despite the absence of Coles with a calf injury.
“Clearly we want to improve,” Foster said. “How we carry the ball and recycle the ball is going to be important.
“The danger of that is that we don’t want to get into purely a retaining the ball mode. We still want to attack so it’s getting that balance, not going into our shells … but making accurate decisions.”
Fiji head coach Vern Cotter said in the first test his team competed well at the breakdown and was well structured with their set piece.
“There were some really positive signs as we slowed the All Blacks down and they expected to play undercover,” he said.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now