Italy pool clash is crucial for the All Blacks

All Blacks huddle

Coach Ian Foster said that while expectations would be high for a good performance against Namibia on Saturday (NZT), they had a bye before shaping up against Italy.

"Italy is a team that we have to beat. We've got a lot of respect for Italy the way they have been playing the last couple of months. We know that's the big challenge ahead. We've got to use the next three weeks, with only one game and then the bye, really smart so we go into that Italy week really fizzing."

Before then, they needed to deal with Nambia, a team their previous contests had shown were tough. While they had plenty of material to study the Africans, one of the advantages of playing a side they didn't know well was having to cope with a little bit of the unknown.

"In many ways that is good for us because we can get our focus on what we need to do better. It's critical we get our game at the level we want to play at."

Looking at the France game, Foster said they had to pull apart a few pieces of the game. He was pleased with where they got to in the first 50 minutes, and they could have been in a better position had they been smarter before halftime.

"I thought we got into a good position against a really strong team in a hostile environment and then we got squeezed and frustrated a little and started to lose the battle at the breakdown and certainly we lost the aerial battle, particularly when we were chasing our kicks and we got clumsy in that space."

The French fed off those features while keeping in the game by picking up three points at various stages.

"We executed a lot of good stuff early, and we dealt with a lot of their pressure in the first half really, really well.

But at 13-19, they still had the game if they had calmed down.

"We forced a couple of passes and it isolated us at the breakdown and then they were able to pick up three points, and another three points. That's the way teams are going to play us. We've got to get better, at our set piece. Our scrum time has to be consistent right through. I've got a lot of faith in our scrum but we've got to be smarter at adapting to the tricks that go on up there."

France had not changed much during the game, but the All Blacks' response changed.

"We went into our shell a little bit in dealing with some of their kicks, and we could have played with more ambition in that area, but, ultimately, you can't lose the penalty battle 12-4 against a team that wants to kick their goals, play territory and squeeze you.

"That's the second Test in a row that's happened at key times and we've got to take notice of that."

Foster said penalties being conceded by prop Ethan de Groot needed to be worked on, and he was concerned that what they were doing was making it look like the All Blacks were doing things wrong.

He was also looking for more impact from the team in the last quarter. It wasn't just the substitutes; it was the team.


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