New Zealand coach Ian Foster likes the improvement that he saw in the All Blacks in routing the US, but knows an upcoming four-week European tour is a much greater challenge.
The All Blacks on Saturday humbled the Eagles 104-14 in Washington to begin a stretch of five matches in as many weeks that continues on Saturday at Wales, with stops to follow in Italy, Ireland and France.
The Kiwis were coming off a loss to South Africa three weeks ago in Australia, which denied them an unbeaten run in the Rugby Championship.
“We went into the game with some specific targets,” Foster said. “There were clearly one or two things we wanted to work on. I felt our handling, our support, some of our passing, went up a step from the Rugby Championship.”
Foster said he was pleased with young talent that received a long look in the lopsided rout and, without naming names, indicated that three or four players had made a case for inclusion on the field in Europe.
“There were some players who showed they wanted to play,” he said.
Foster said he was unhappy at some of the high-risk passes that worked their way into the All Blacks attack as the score become more lopsided.
“A brief looseness crept into our game,” Foster said. “Looks like we watched too much NBA this week.”
“As the result got sorted early, we got the desire to express ourselves,” he said. “Overall, we showed enough composure. There were enough clips for the review to make it exciting.”
All Blacks fullback Damian McKenzie, who managed one of New Zealand’s 16 tries, said the victory would bring a boost, even though players realize tougher opposition awaits in Europe.
“We showed some really great rugby over the 80 minutes,” he said.
“Moving forward, we will be meeting some really tough opposition,” McKenzie said. “It’s great to put a performance like this out there. We know we have got to keep getting better. We have got plenty of things to keep working on, but it gives us a lot of confidence.”
Among the newcomers was reserve Josh Lord, who made his All Blacks debut in a match at an NFL stadium with US fans tailgating in the parking lot and screaming loudly for the outmatched Americans.
“It was pretty surreal,” he said. “I’ve never played in an atmosphere like that before. It was a great opportunity.”
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