All Blacks determined to end 2018 on a high

2018-11-21 09:52
 Ian Foster
Ian Foster (Getty)

Cape Town - Finishing their 2018 season with a strong performance is the All Blacks' aim going into their final game of the year, against Italy on Saturday. 

That was the word from All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster, who said there was disappointment with the weekend's defeat to Ireland and especially the way the side played but they wanted to play well in Rome and continue the growth in their game. 

They wanted to bank some positives from that and to spend the summer confident in the path they had chosen as they build towards the Rugby World Cup next year. 

Foster said they wouldn't be restricted to one game-plan at the World Cup, they needed to have a number of options to play whoever they were playing against because at a World Cup playing different teams with very different styles meant the All Blacks had to be able to do two or three things well. 

"We're pretty confident with a large part of what we offer and we're trying to explore some other areas," he said. 

"Clearly Ireland showed us up a little bit so we've got a bit of work to do against that type of team." 

The Tests against England and Ireland had been huge for the side. 

"They've been two really talked about games and we've loved them, they've been awesome for us," added Foster. 

"You go into the Rugby Championship and they're equally as big games for us, but here we haven't played those two teams for a while and whilst you prepare players for what's coming, it's another thing to get in the middle of the park and actually to feel it come then. 

"We saw some pictures coming at us that we probably expected but you've still got to expect players to execute under that sort of pressure so we learnt some things and the players learnt some things." 

Foster said Rome was a beautiful place to be but the priority for the All Blacks was to prepare for a top quality performance regardless of where they were. There were a lot of distractions with the history of the city but the side were aware they had a pretty important Test match at the end of the week. 

"It's a different feel to the last two weeks, there's no doubt about that but come Saturday we're going to have to be ready for an Italian team that is going to really back themselves to have a good crack at us," he said. 

"We've got a lot to learn, we need to fix a few things so it's a pretty important week for us." 

Italy had been extremely competitive against Australia and had done some things that hadn't seen before in the Six Nations and clearly the team management were working on a number of things as well. 

"There'll be a little of the unexpected I think and that's not a bad thing for us to have to prepare for," said Foster. 

Italy had shown a desire to exploit good attacking opportunities and while they hadn't all come to fruition the intention was obvious. But Italy had also made a marked improvement in the short time from the Chicago Test against Ireland to last week's game with Australia and Foster said the All Blacks were expecting a similar shift from the Azzurri on Saturday. 

Being the last week of the rugby year for the side, Foster said training was not going at 100 miles per hour, rather it was focused on achieving clarity in the areas of their game they wanted to keep growing. 

"We're trying to make sure we grow as many options as we can both in players but also in the tactical side going into next year and so that's been our focus. It takes a bit of time to get some of those little things right but the expectations are pretty high that we learn quickly," he said. 

Taken over the whole year, Foster said the management were happy with large areas of the team's game. 

"So what we're doing is looking at different options against different types of defence in different teams and this is the beauty of now; we've got real Test matches where if we don't get them right we get hurt so we get tested under a lot of pressure and we'll see where we're at," he revealed. 

"But we'll be changing our game right through a World Cup, that's what always happens. We did it last time. You're always trying to add little bits and pieces to what you're doing but the key is to get the key components of it really clear."

Read more on:    italy  |  all blacks  |  ian foster  |  rugby


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