All Blacks turn attention to Japan and the Northern Tour

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The touring squad have been training at a camp in Nelson this week, and coach Ian Foster said the All Blacks would be making only their second tour north in this World Cup cycle, their first being last year.


"We've got to treasure this tour and the opportunities it presents."


Foster said Japan would be competitive when the sides meet in Tokyo on October 29.


Word has been around that Japan is looking to extend its capacity for surprises against the All Blacks, especially if Foster is inclined to field a slightly more inexperienced side.


Under Kiwi coaches Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown, Japan has gone through an era of significant development, including wins over Ireland and Scotland to reach the quarterfinals when the country hosted the 2019 Rugby World Cup.


"If you go back to the last World Cup, they won a couple of big games, and they played really well against France and Australia A recently, so they're well-prepared.


"We know they're a growing nation, and this is a Test they're going to target.


"So, nothing changes. Everyone we play is going to be ready to play us, and they [Japan] certainly will be."

While the November 20 Test against England is keenly- awaited, there were games against Japan, Wales (November 6), and Scotland (November 14) they had to get through first.


"It's on the horizon, and playing England at Twickenham is always special and the fact we haven't played them since 2019 in a game I remember well is going to make it even more important."


Foster said the tour's goal was to grow team performance. That involved giving players as many opportunities as possible.


Returning midfielder Anton Lienert-Brown had been unable to take a full part in training after a groin tweak suffered while playing for Waikato in the Bunnings NPC quarterfinal against Bay of Plenty last weekend.


Foster commented that Roger Tuivasa-Scheck's two NPC games on the wing for Auckland had increased his versatility giving the All Blacks selectors some options.


"It's given him a greater insight into the game. So, it's going to help him."


Foster said the camp in Nelson had been a good experience. It provided a lift for a region that had been hit hard in recent storms by slips and flooding but also in giving the All Blacks a reminder of who they play for.


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