Rugby Championship

ABs not thinking of RWC yet

2014-09-02 20:01
Ian Foster (Getty Images)

Napier - Their World Cup clash is little over a year away but the All Blacks have no secret strategy to test tactics or combinations against Argentina in Saturday's Rugby Championship match, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

The All Blacks host the Pumas in Napier in the third round of the Championship on Saturday and with the global showpiece looming, local media have suggested the game would be an opportune moment to test their preparations.

"Clearly they're in our pool but there isn't a master strategy to try a lot of different plans against them in order to build for next year," Foster told reporters in Napier this week.

"We have learned in the past that if you look beyond the Saturday when we play Argentina then we get hit pretty hard.

"So we're looking forward to what would be a pretty big Test match."

The All Blacks open their World Cup defence against the Pumas at Wembley Stadium on 20 September next year.

The Argentina match will be the toughest for them in Pool C of the global showpiece with their following three matches against Namibia, Georgia and Tonga.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen embarked on a rebuilding programme when he took over in 2012 and has attempted to blend young talent with a grizzled core of 2011 World Cup winners to take into next year's tournament.

Few pundits in New Zealand now expect him to make any surprise selections for the end of year tour to Europe, with the focus now on giving some of his less experienced players more game time and perhaps a few starts.

Foster, however, said that was far from their thinking during the Rugby Championship, instead preferring to name a side each week they felt would do the job with consistency of selection being a defining feature of the team in the past year.

"Have we got a strategy to start everyone? No," Foster replied when asked if they would use the Pumas' game to give the less-experienced players game time.

"Our strategy is to pick the best team each week to do the job and if guys aren't getting the starts they have to use the training week and whatever action they get to develop their game.

"I don't think they have to have a start to keep developing.

"The pressure is on the whole squad to play well but the guys who don't start, their pressure is to train well from Sunday to Friday and become a better rugby player."

While Foster said the team would not be named until Thursday, few changes are expected from the side that hammered Australia 51-20 at Eden Park less than two weeks ago, particularly in a pack that obliterated the Wallabies.

The only likely change is in the backs with inside centre Ma'a Nonu expected to return from a shoulder injury to partner Conrad Smith in the midfield.

Foster also said there would be no room for sentimentality to give Israel Dagg a start at fullback on his home ground at McLean Park.

Dagg was released from the All Blacks squad after the Auckland Test to play for Hawke's Bay in New Zealand's provincial championship, a clash that doubled as a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

The 26-year-old helped Hawke's Bay beat Counties Manukau 27-21 last Saturday to regain the famed challenge trophy and bring it back to Napier, increasing rugby fever ahead of only the second New Zealand Test in the city.

"No nostalgia around the selection table in terms of local people," Foster said.

"All our deliberations are what is best for the team right now, so we have some interesting decisions."


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