All Blacks preparing for determined Pumas

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Lynn McConnell     27 Sep 2017     Getty Images

While Argentina's traditional set-piece strength had been targeted by opposing teams this year, the All Blacks needed only to recall the scrummaging test they were put to by the Pumas, especially in the second half of their Buenos Aires Test last year, to be well aware of what to expect this time, assistant coach Ian Foster said on Tuesday.
They also realised the Pumas had not beaten New Zealand in a Test yet and it was part of living up to the All Blacks' legacy by not allowing it to happen on their watch. But they were up against a side that was a proud nation who had beaten nearly every other nation and who were passionate about trying to beat the All Blacks.

"We don't go out with a fear of having to defend that so much, it's more of an excitement. It's about us playing as good as we can and that's our goal for Saturday," Foster said.

While the side was without half of its leadership group that meant those leaders who were there had to keep the group growing and continuing to improve so whoever pulled the jersey on they had to aim to keep playing at a high level.

"We've got the people driving that, the players are excited by it and we are as a management team as well," he said.

That had been reflected in a good training session on Tuesday (Buenos Aires time) and that had been driven by those leaders with the team.

"The other guys there, we don't want them to go and pretend to be someone that they're not or to do something they don't normally do. We just want them to lead by playing well, preparing well Sunday to Friday and playing well on Saturday and that's their job," he said.

It was important to prepare the All Blacks to have the ability to cope quickly and adapt to what opposing sides threw at them, and there was always something different that teams tried.

Argentina had surprised them in a few areas and they had played well in New Plymouth in their last outing to put the All Blacks under a lot of pressure.

"With 60 minutes gone it was a very tight Test match so clearly they got under our skin a little bit and we remember that and it's meant that we've got plenty of motivation to prepare thoroughly this week," he said.

The Pumas had become a force in world rugby in the last five years and like all teams they faced the challenge of performing consistently week in and week out.

"I know we judge teams hard when they don't quite get it right one week then get it right the next week but that just shows how hard it is to do that. So we're full of respect for what Argentina has done. We pick up stuff out of their game that we like and put into ours so they're a good team," he said.

They had the ability to play at pace, play out wide and to play teams through the middle and they did it well.

With a space at halfback for next season as a result of Tawera Kerr-Barlow's move to France the selectors were keeping an eye on prospective replacements who could have a long-term future with the side.

"We're keeping an eye on a few and we're pretty happy with what we've seen and the hard part is getting a real grasp of what good form at Mitre 10 Cup looks like when you've got to pick an All Black nine but overall we're pretty happy and there are certainly some guys who are showing signs that they want to take an opportunity," he said.