Valuable lessons learned in Dunedin ahead of Rugby World Cup

Will Jordan

Down 3-17 early in the game, the All Blacks fought back to claim a 23-20 win in the last moments in Dunedin on Saturday.

Coach Ian Foster said he was stoked with the win, especially after the All Blacks were second best 'by some distance' in the first half.

"They threw a lot at us, but to come back and show a lot of composure under that sort of scoreboard pressure and squeeze them, and to win in the last minutes, was a great lesson for this team. We've had three good wins this year, and to come off a different type of win with that sort of result is what Test matches are about, and it is going to hold us in good stead later on.

"We all know it wasn't perfect, but we'll take it.

"Not every lesson is a bad one. This lesson was a good one. We put ourselves in a hole and the Aussies helped put us there. When you come out the other side you learn a lot about yourself, a lot about your comms [communication] and your trust in what you're doing."

Foster felt New Zealand deserved to win. They came back well and played until the end.

"I know we made a lot of changes, more than we have for a long time, but the overall objective was to win this Test and to get the squad to the starting line of the World Cup all in a good space."

Had they not done that, there was a danger of having players at the World Cup who had not played for eight or nine weeks.

The debut players flanker Samipeni Finau and wing Shaun Stevenson performed better in the second half, he said, which was a good sign.

After conceding early 50-50 plays, the All Blacks got passive, which reflected the time they took to get into the defensive side of their game. That was a credit to Australia because they were big, powerful men.

"We saw it last week. If you let them get in behind you and ride then in the tackle, they are an absolute handful."

Foster felt the team was where it needed to be 80 minutes out from the World Cup.

"We started this season with three great Tests in a row and this week certainly wasn't a great Test…but it was a step forward in terms of digging ourselves out of a hole. It's just another thing we're going to need to have ready and it doesn't mean we're there yet, we've never said that, but I'm very satisfied with where we're at going into this next block."

Captain Sam Cane said all Test matches were different, and they were required to find a way to win in Dunedin.

"You can talk about a lot of things, but sometimes you have to go through things as a team and overcome them to have that real, genuine deep belief that you can do it. Hopefully, we don't find ourselves in that position again, but should we, there's a little bit of calmness in the ground that, 'right, we've been there before, let's focus on what's important to fix and step forward from there.

"I was pleased with what the coaches and we delivered at halftime and the group was able to implement that and take it out there in the second 40."

The experience had been invaluable for those players who had not been in that position before with the All Blacks.

He said lock Sam Whitelock was a significant calming influence in the game circumstance and had fronted up in a big way when winning some crucial turnovers.


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