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All Blacks expect battle up front with Italy

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Lynn McConnell     09 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Assistant coach Ian Foster said among the prescriptions for improvement was getting their hands on the ball earlier so as to prevent opponents inflicting their physicality on the All Blacks from early on in the game.

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That would be well tested against an Italian side that had put a lot of pressure on Argentina through their scrum and lineout drive and the All Blacks were expecting a similar approach.

There had been some comment out of the Italian camp that the All Blacks bench was not as strong as it had been previously but Foster said the job of the All Blacks would be to prove that view wrong.

There were likely to be some surprises for the All Blacks from Italy and Foster said that wasn't a bad thing for them because the All Blacks would have to go into the game with their eyes wide open and to make better decisions on the run.

Foster said the loss to Ireland would not affect their approach as they came into the tour with plans for the first two games. There were injury problems but the arrival of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock would aid that, both were looking good, and overall things would continue to plan.

"We're into our twelfth Test match this year and our belief has always been to have a lot of freshness in the group at this stage to get our performance right. Coming off a loss that hurts, but it doesn't necessarily change our attitude about the importance of us using the full resources in our squad to get through this tour well," he said.
It wasn't intended to bring tour apprentice Jordy Barrett into selection consideration. Centre Seta Tamanivalu had joined the side while they had changed their expectation of Reiko Ioane to have him considered as a fourth option at centre, although he was still preferred as a wing.

Foster said comment from former captain, coach and selector of the All Blacks Sir Brian Lochore that the side had become predictable was 'very fair'.

Foster said at Chicago Ireland had also found the All Blacks predictable.

"We struggled early in terms of ball supply and were unable to paint some pictures that we needed to paint so when we did get the ball eventually we did become predictable. It's not what we want to do, it's probably not what we have been most of the year."

Having played 11 Tests so far this year opponents had had plenty of time to look at the All Blacks and they had to be smarter in response to that scrutiny, he said.

The loss had not forced a new process on the management as they attempted to grow their game. They had learned from previous losses, and also some wins that had not been impressive, and it was a case of seeing how much they needed to tweak and what they needed to do better. It was about getting the balance and not panicking.

At the same time, they couldn't get too arrogant and think everything they did was right, he said.