Changes aplenty for All Blacks clash with France

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Coach Ian Foster said the side faces another stiff challenge, this time from a French team rebuilding with their hosting of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in mind.

 

Foster said France had shown they had a licence to play. Combined with the enthusiasm provided by some of their younger players and through the work of their strong loose forwards, especially, they would be a handful for an All Blacks team looking to recover from their mauling by Ireland last week.

 

"They'll be out to test themselves, and I'm sure they'll be reasonably confident being at home.

 

"But for us, it's another great occasion, and we've got to make sure we challenge their experience and decision-making, and I'm sure it bodes for a pretty strong way to finish a campaign," he said.

 

The longest tour he has been on had been demanding. But, he said, he couldn't be more proud of how the players handled themselves, especially being hotel-bound as a result of Covid requirements, he said.

 

The growth in the squad had been immense. Foster said some hard selection choices lay ahead next season.

 

Understanding the passion the French play with when in Paris would be a benefit from the occasion. No one is talking about it, but it will be a scene-setter ahead of their opening game of the next Rugby World Cup.

 

The other requirement heading into the Test was being mentally sharp, something he felt wasn't on song in last weekend's loss to Ireland.

 

"This week we're really got to make sure we've got our mind on that 80-minute performance on Saturday," he said.

 

 

"I think this team has achieved some great things this year. We've played some good rugby, we've now come into an experience that a number of players haven't had which is up in the northern hemisphere, and we've got to maximise our chances here.

 

"We've also got to show our learning from last week. We've got to be sharper in how we make decisions and use the opportunities we can get. If we can do that, then I'll be a pretty satisfied coach at the end of the night," he said.

 

Foster said he felt the length of the tour contributed to the loss of edge in the decision-making against Ireland. That was behind the changes aimed at maximising the energy of the group. Replacement halfback Smith was one of them.

 

There had been players left out who had made significant contributions to the campaign. But the selectors felt the game required an injection of freshness.

 

That had been the key to getting through the campaign at various stages. That mental freshness had been evident during their preparation this week.

 

Quinn Tupaea has marked his introductory season by inclusion at second five-eighths. Foster said he had worked and trained hard. And he had not been overawed in the team environment.

 

"He's shown massive respect to learn the role and to contribute and on the park, he's excited with some of the challenges we've put him in. A hard runner, runs good lines, he's good over the ball and an enthusiastic chaser. This is a massive Test for him, but we've got a lot of faith in him, and [we're] really confident that he'll have the temperament to deal with this occasion," he said.

 

Cane's return to starting on the open side had been cautious but considered. He had committed himself in his preparation, and his freshness should contribute to a lift in the performance.

 

Foster said when he told Dalton Papalii that Cane was to play, he did it with a congratulatory handshake because of the outstanding season Papalii had.

 

"He should be very, very proud of what he's achieved. He was pretty battered and bruised after that Irish Test, but he's put in some big games for us this year and proven that he's an international seven," he said.

 

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