'He looks like an Irishman now doesn't he?' - All Blacks ramp up mind games with dig at Bundee Aki
After their suggestion that Conor Murray would be pressed back into service for Saturday's mammoth Aviva Stadium clash fell flat, the All Blacks management have tried a different tack as they attempt to get under Ireland's skin.
Assistant coach Ian Foster yesterday ramped up the mind games ahead of the battle of the world's top two teams by questioning Johnny Sexton's approach to referees and having a none-too-subtle dig at Bundee Aki.
The Ireland out-half spoke on Monday about the need for his side to stay on the right side of Wayne Barnes this weekend and Foster appeared to suggest he is trying to influence the English official.
Ireland have fallen foul of Barnes' whistle on previous occasions and discipline will be a key factor on Saturday.
"I'm not sure why he says that, Barnsey is a great ref," Foster said. "Johnny seems to give them (referees) a bit of advice on the park too so I'm sure he will carry on doing that."
Foster says he expects Ireland to try and "suffocate us by possession", while he dismissed the idea that Bundee Aki will have the inside track on his former team-mates.
The former Chiefs centre has come in for criticism in the New Zealand media for his move to Connacht in 2014.
Born in Auckland to Samoan parents, Aki is a product of the New Zealand system but he qualified to play for Ireland last year on residency.
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"He had a few years in the Chiefs, played really, really well. But he's been over here a while now," Foster said. "I mean you have moulded him into an Irish man. He looks like an Irish man now doesn't he?
"There will be a couple of our guys who have probably played with him and know him personally but we are kind of getting used to that."
Ireland coach Andy Farrell said all 41 members of the squad trained at Carton House, with Leinster's Adam Byrne and Connacht's Tom Farrell also invited to the session.
Rob Kearney, Garry Ringrose and Kieran Marmion all trained fully and are expected to start, with Dan Leavy and Devin Toner also likely to be included in the team.
Both teams will be named tomorrow.