Foster admits Fiji exposed All Blacks weak spots

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Dunedin (New Zealand) (AFP)

The All Blacks have pinpointed areas of their game in need of urgent attention following an untidy performance against Fiji although coach Ian Foster insisted his side were “building nicely”.

The principal problem lay up front, despite hooker Dane Coles’ four tries being the match saver in Saturday’s 57-23 victory, with the All Blacks forwards out-smarted and out-muscled in the collision area for three quarters of the match by the physical Fijian eight.

Foster reeled off the breakdown, speed of clean-out and the restart as areas that needed urgent attention before the second Test against Fiji next weekend.

“I enjoyed the Test match because it did expose a few areas and it got us thinking about stuff and yet we muddled our way through a little bit but we found some good solutions,” he said.

“We’ll go away and have a look at it and see what we come up with next week,” he added, before putting a positive spin on the All Blacks performance: “But I think we’re building nicely.”

For most of the game the All Blacks pack was bullied by a brave but travel-weary Fiji who only had two full training runs before the Test as players completed their two-weeks quarantine on different days after arriving individually in New Zealand.

Despite the lack of preparation, Fiji trailed the seasoned All Blacks by 21-11 at half-time and had closed to 31-23 with 20 minutes remaining when they eventually ran out of steam.

“They (Fiji) had moments in that game where they put us under quite a bit of pressure,” Foster said.

“It highlighted a few areas that we’re obviously going to have to go and tidy up a little bit, but I guess the composure to come back and win (with) nine tries against a team that chucked everything at us was pretty pleasing.”

Adding intrigue to the pressure on Foster is that the Fiji forwards are coached by Jason Ryan, the forwards coach for the Super Rugby champions Canterbury Crusaders whose head coach Scott Robertson is knocking at the door of taking over the All Blacks.

Foster’s two-year contract is up for renewal at the end of this year and after only a 50 percent win record last year he needs the side to markedly improve to ensure he remains until the 2023 World Cup in France.

On the eve of this Test, New Zealand Rugby described Robertson, who is in demand internationally, as “exceptional at every level he has coached” and had signed a new three-year contract to stay in the country.

In addition to the four tries to replacement hooker Coles, David Havili scored twice for the All Blacks one each to Jordie Barrett, George Bridge and Will Jordan while Beauden Barrett landed six conversions.

Fiji’s points came from tries to Albert Tuisue and Mesulame Kunavula along with a penalty try while Ben Volavola kicked two penalties.

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