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Backline choice tough for All Blacks - Foster

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Lynn McConnell     16 Aug 2016     Getty Images

With Beauden Barrett starting the third Test against Wales in June and then leading his side to Super Rugby success there was pressure on the choice between him, Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga. The team will be named on Thursday.

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Foster said both teams had selection options surrounding the way they wanted to play the game with their backs and it wouldn't be easy for either side to pick what the other was looking to do.

"Whoever goes out on the park for us is going to be geared up and ready to play and we know it is going to be exactly the same with the Wallabies. There's a lot of talk about who's starting but for us it's about the squad, the 23, and how we balance that and we know that's a similar mentality with the Wallabies," he said.

Foster was asked if the Australians had any weaknesses but replied that they were playing a team they last met in the Rugby World Cup final last year so they didn't see weaknesses.

What they did see was areas they would like to probe, to test, but he wouldn't say they were weaknesses.

"This is an All Blacks-Wallabies Test match and in Bledisloe Cup games there is no quarter given.

"We've got a lot to prove because we haven't got a great record over here and we know we're up against a team which probably struggled a little in June but still played good rugby to come out of there with a bit of hope and this is a big Test for them and a big Test for us.
"Everyone wants to win the first Bledisloe Cup game because it sets the series up nicely. There's been a lot of talk, but it's going to be a traditional tight Bledisloe One Test match in Sydney," he said.

The All Blacks weren't being distracted by Australia's 0-3 loss to England in June. The Wallabies were a quality team, they had a whole new group of players coming back in and as a result the All Blacks are expecting to play one of the top teams in the world.

The loss of George Moala with a medial ligament injury at training on Monday was a disappointment in the quest to assess all options for the side's midfield after the loss of Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Sonny Bill Williams.

"It was disappointing, he [Moala] came in as a replacement in June and really took his opportunity well in that third Test. He did an elbow in that Test and then came back and he was in fantastic shape, the signs were looking good. He's had a little bit of a temporary setback but that happens in this business. He'll go away and get that right and hopefully come charging back sooner than later," Foster said.

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The mid-field players involved, and the selectors, had learned a lot from the June series against Wales and the Bledisloe Cup Test was going to be the next level up for the players.

Whether the Australians looked to challenge the mid-field or not, the All Blacks were not attempting to hide from the fact their players were less experienced than those in the past.

"If you look at the guys we've got there, Ryan [Crotty] has had a number of Tests and Malakai [Fekitoa] is the same and has a number of Tests under his belt so when you go through that, and obviously losing George we're short of that option but we've got guys who have played a bit of Test match rugby and who have played over here as well so I think whichever way we go it's exciting for us.

"We know its new but it's something we saw in June, we made good progress in the midfield and now it's going to be next step up.

Foster said hooker Dane Coles was 'pretty good'. He was throwing the ball into lineouts and moving around well and while he still wasn't 100 percent he was getting close.

"The team has come together well and there is nothing more exciting for us than a Bledisloe Cup game, particularly in Sydney so we're full of energy.