Auckland - All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster feels the world
champions can breach the British and Irish Lions' rush defence when the sides
meet in Saturday's opening Test in Auckland.
Some would see the Lions' defensive system as keeping in the
darker, innovation-denying skills of rugby and the All Blacks as the leaders of
the free rugby world attempting to show how rugby can be played as a liberating
But Foster said the Lions use of smothering line defence
just provided the All Blacks with other opportunities.
"It's not like it's new," he told the All Blacks'
"There're a lot of teams defending like this in Super
Rugby now. Quite frankly, we defend very quickly now so they've probably got
the same issues - how do they attack against our line speed?
"It's not like it's one team's issue to try to unravel.
The reason they do it is they think they can get an advantage from it and with
every method there's always some areas you can attack through it. We've just
got to make sure we're smart and patient as the game unfolds."
Interest in the series has heightened with the Lions running
into more form as their combinations develop during the tour and the challenge
was a special one for New Zealand.
Foster said playing the Lions was part of the All Blacks'
"We love these big occasions and playing the best of
the northern hemisphere on a tour situation is a great thing to be involved in
so when you look back at the great All Blacks, and the great Lions players,
they've always been special times," he said.
"We prepare to play a team at their best and we prepare
to play our game at our best and that's what we want to do. It's not like we
sit there worrying about what the opposition do.
"We've got massive respect for who we're playing but we
know we're at our best when we take a lot of pride in what we do. And that's
the challenge in big games.
"In big games you don't get it all your own way, you
don't win every minute. Sometimes the opposition will have a little bit of a
surge and it's just riding through that and reimposing yourself.
"This is going to be a big game, tough teams who want
this a lot and we've just got to make sure that we keep trusting what we do.
"From an attack side we're always looking to exploit
what the opposition's doing to us defensively but the flipside of it is we are
also looking at ways to put pressure on them."
Foster wasn't concerned with claims by Lions coach Warren
Gatland that New Zealand teams were guilty of blocking.
"I expected it, apparently we were bad scrummagers last
week, and this week we're bad at something else and I guarantee we'll be
useless at something else next week," he added.
Foster said the combination of Sonny Bill Williams and Anton
Lienert-Brown last week against Samoa had been pleasing as they hadn't played
together for a long time.
"Both players have had spells off during Super Rugby
and they probably haven't hit their top form so to come in and gel the way they
did is fantastic and Ryan [Crotty] we know is a very smart rugby player and
he's never let us down in whatever role we've given him so we've got some nice
decisions there and the good thing is we are making decisions between players
we know will do a very good job," he explained.
In relation to captain Kieran Read, Foster said he was
desperate to lead the side out on Saturday, but the diagnosis had always been
that Read would be ready to play this game.
It had been touch and go last week to get some minutes of
play but that hadn't happened. However, the selectors were satisfied he was
progressing well and Tuesday had been his first full contact day and any
decision on him playing would be based on him coming through that.