All Blacks prepared for whatever style Italy bring

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It will be the first outing for Italy under their new coach, former All Black Kieran Crowley, and Foster said they could look to rebuild their forward game or choose to play an open style, but the All Blacks would be prepared.

 

That was one of the reasons for utilising the experience of captain Sam Cane at flanker and Dane Coles at hooker – both of them returning from long injury breaks.

 

They had shown their desire to play. Since their return, it was a case of the selectors biding their time because their time away had been significant. However, they had trained well, and he was excited to see them play against Italy.

 

Foster said he was confident in the decision to field the locking combination of Tupou Vaa'i with nine Tests and Josh Lord with one Test because of the rugby they had played together through age-group, Taranaki and the Chiefs.

 

Vaa'i responded to every challenge put in front of him with the All Blacks over the last two years.

 

"He's a growing force, he's learning to trust himself and express himself on the park, and we've seen very similar qualities in Josh since he's come in. He's in a different frame, and a slightly different style lock, but very energetic, very mobile, and I love his attitude.

 

 

"He's come in, he's spoken his mind, he's contributed, he's asked questions and we're delighted to be able to give him a start," he said.

 

The Italy game was the last of three games they had planned ahead of the trip, but he said he would be surprised if a number of the players named for Saturday didn't appear in the Tests against either Ireland or France.

 

Foster was proud of the way the players had embraced the tour and the depth that had developed, even if, at the crunch end of the tour, it would involve some tough selection choices ahead of the Ireland and France Tests.

 

"You only build depth when people seize the opportunity you give them, and they take it. The reason we are talking about our depth at the moment is that basically, to a man, when we've given someone a jersey they've gone out there and done a really good job," he said.

 

Depth could only grow if the side kept producing great performances.

 

"When we look at the last two weeks of the tour a lot of that is going to depend on the quality on Saturday. We can't excuse anything below a level we want to play at on Saturday. If we get the level and play well, then there will be a lot of pressure on the last two weeks, and that's the way it should be," he said.

 

The Irish and French would play two different styles of game, so there were options to be considered for both.

 

"There're a few headaches coming up, but they're good ones, because we've got players who are putting their hand up and producing the sort of performances we want. And every week you do that, there is more pressure the next week to carry on doing it," he said.

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