Foster looking forward to re-joining the team

Foster told media via a Zoom call from his home that after a couple of 'dusty' days at the start, things had settled down, and he was feeling good.

 

"I'm looking forward to joining the team on Saturday morning," he said.

 

However, news that scrum coach Greg Feek was diagnosed with Covid on Thursday morning has seen Mike Cron called in to help in Feek's absence.

 

Foster said the New Zealanders had massive respect for Ireland and what they had achieved in rugby in the last couple of years, and having them in the country was special.

 

"We feel like we've been away from home for a long time as an All Black team, so to play in front of our friends and families here is something we are looking forward to," he said.

 

"It's a great series for us. We like the pressure of this series. I've said for the last couple of months, I think it is ideal for us."

Having seen the Irish in their opening game against the Māori All Blacks, Foster said Ireland did some things he expected of them, but there were also things different to what they expected in Saturday's Test.

 

Ireland was trying to build depth, and Foster said he understood that, but he also felt their Test players sitting in the grandstand watching would represent a different challenge.

 

The choice of Scott Barrett on the blindside of the scrum was the most notable selection, especially given it was his first start in the position for the All Blacks since their Rugby World Cup semifinal loss to England in Japan in 2019.

 

Foster said while it was his first start under the new coaching regime, he had filled in for the side.

 

"We feel he can do it, he is one of the form players of Super Rugby in the last four to six weeks, he's on top of his game," he said.

 

World Cup lessons were absorbed a long time ago, and management was clear about their strategy, he said.

 

As well as Barrett's acumen in set-piece play, he brought a bruising defence and ball-carrying part to his game and was probably the side's most dynamic lock ball-carrier.

A foot injury Akira Ioane had been playing with during the Blues' playoff games kep him out of the side. He would benefit from another week's break, Foster said.

 

A similar approach applied to flanker Dalton Papalii after his appendix operation.

 

"He's got a great attitude, he's nearly at 100 per cent but not quite there, so we felt that was the right way to utilise those two," he said.

 

Foster said Leicester Fainga'anuku had earned his spot on the left-wing. He had played well through Super Rugby Pacific. His versatility was a key factor in his selection, and he was confident, ran hard and fast and wanted to play and get the ball in his hands.

 

No8 Pita Gus Sowakula had a different path to the All Blacks than Fainga'anuku, but he would have a fantastic opportunity off the bench.

 

Tighthead prop Nepo Laulala hadn't been considered as he played with a sore neck during the last three or four weeks with the Blues and got time off to ensure his neck came right ahead of the second Test. Tyrell Lomax joined the side as standby.

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