All Blacks focus in on USA Eagles showdown

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All Blacks coach Ian Foster said there were a couple of positions where players would have a chance to play their way, potentially, into the team to play Wales.

 

"We are using it in many ways. We are using it to give game time to some and grow their experience but we're also putting the heat on some areas of our game that we feel we need to keep growing and look at maybe some wider options," he said.

 

The United States had suffered a blow when beaten by Uruguay for the division one Americas qualification for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. But, the All Blacks had heard, the Americans were excited by the chance to play in a big stadium, in front of their people, against the All Blacks.

 

"If you're a growing emerging nation, you're less worried about the result and more excited about the opportunity. I think they'll see it as a chance to measure themselves," he said.

 

The game was one of 15 Tests during the year, and the All Blacks would go in with things they wanted to work on, so they would set some on-field objectives that were important for them to get right.

 

"We've had a break since the Rugby Championship, we need a game, and having a hit out like this is going to be fantastic for us," he said.

 

"We are cognisant of giving guys opportunities when it is practical," he said.

The good news was that the squad, including the new arrivals, would all be in contention for the opening game against the United States. Only flanker Shannon Frizell needing to have his shoulder assessed, and indications were that that would not be an issue.

 

"I think we've already flagged that the likes of a Sam Cane or Dane Coles, particularly guys that have been out for a while with injury, this would be an ideal game to get them back in there," he said.

 

Foster felt the Rugby Championship had been a success overall for the All Blacks. They were delighted to win the title, although losing the last game to South Africa had hurt a little.

 

But the two games against South Africa at the end meant they were exposed to a lot of what would be coming from the northern hemisphere teams.

 

"It was great preparation for us. It's three years since we've been to the northern hemisphere. We've got a lot of players who wouldn't have seen the big stadiums up north and been exposed to rugby there so, again, it's going to be a great learning curve.

 

 

"We've just got to make sure we keep driving our standards and we want to keep growing and playing well up there," he said.

 

Their week of preparation on the Sunshine Coast focused on their skills base and the lessons from their South Africa games.

 

And they finished the work with some physical training runs to up the contact ahead of the United States game.

 

"They're in a really good spot now to hop on a plane and get ready for the next couple of weeks," he said.

 

"We've still got to keep learning and make on-field decisions a little bit quicker than what we are. We created some space and options [against South Africa], particularly off lineout time, that were there ready for us to take and, yet, we seemed a little bit hesitant to call that.

 

"I think that's just big occasions, new players playing opposition for the first time but the positive signs are that we know we're not too far off," he said.

 

There would be a little of the unknown ahead for the less experienced players, but that excited him. They would need to learn lessons from surprises that might occur on the park and where they needed to react a lot quicker, he said.

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