Places still up for grabs to face Wales

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Coach Ian Foster said the way the team played, but especially the individuals in the positions of interest were exciting.


There were enough points in the game for him to be a little grumpy, but in the third quarter, when they overplayed some situations in their desire to express themselves, they showed enough composure after making mistakes to keep him happy, he said.


Despite the margin of the win, Foster said it had been of immense value to the All Blacks.


"This game was vital for us in terms of we have got a number of players who haven't played for three or four weeks, and it's a great chance to have a really good hit out. And to do it in a special stadium, and special occasion is pretty valuable for us.


"We go to Wales next week and we have had a little bit of contact under our belt, and we're really delighted with some of the skills stuff we were able to put out on the park. It gives us a good launching pad for what is going to be a big month," he said.


They went into the game with specific targets. Some areas South Africa exposed were not tested in Washington, but their handling, passing, and support-line work went up a step from the Rugby Championship while there were also benefits from giving new players opportunities.



Foster said while the scoreline would attract comment, games like that were important for the US to grow and broaden their experience at a higher level. He acknowledged they were hamstrung by not being able to field their players based in European clubs. 


"I know they'll be disappointed by the scoreline…I think they were a little bit shell-shocked in the first five minutes and it took them a while to figure out that they could play against us. I thought in the third quarter they showed a lot more of what they can do…If they use it well it could be a launching pad for things to come," he said.


Foster said he was delighted with centre Braydon Ennor's effort. He had trained well beforehand, had played well at centre and better on the wing.


"He showed us there's two positions he really wants to be part of. I was pleased for him, he defended strongly and he always makes good decisions defensively…It was nice to see him pass and run and distribute the way we want him to so he gets a big tick," he said.


Second five-eighths Quinn Tupaea tidied up a lot of situations. He was a player who didn't overplay his hand and stuck to what he did well.


"He's quite creative in that sort of space, a lot of short-passing and he draws defenders to him and he's able to get the ball away. He's a young man who's growing and I thought both those two should be pretty proud of their effort," he said.

Halfback Finlay Christie continued to grow and was quick around the field while strong defensively, and prop Ethan de Groot had scored an early try and was a young player the coaching staff were delighted with, he said.


It was also encouraging to see lock Sam Whitelock, flanker Sam Cane, and hooker Dane Coles get time, the latter two especially, after being out with injuries, he said.


Whitelock said as one of the players who hadn't played for a couple of months, it felt like he was off a little bit, but the team had come together and played well at times. It was good to have combinations through the team developing again.


"At different times I was blowing a little bit but I always expected that. I felt good out there and enjoyed it," he said.


Whitelock said the atmosphere had been outstanding at the Stadium. "It was one of those as a player it was pretty cool to be part of," he said.


"It was amazing how many All Blacks and Super Rugby jerseys we saw in the stands tonight and there were other countries too, so people obviously put on their colours representing who they wanted to."


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