Sport Rugby

Sunday 25 February 2018

Ian Foster: Kiwis will not rest easy until they deliver perfect storm

Ian Foster
Ian Foster
David Kelly

David Kelly

Even on the brink of history in the professional age, the All Blacks diffidently don the mantle of trailblazers.

Mention history to a Kiwi and they point you towards the future.

Whatever happens on Sunday, they will drive on impatiently to the next challenge with all the blithe indifference to emotion of a lottery millionaire who insists on returning to work.

They handed back the World Cup trophy in Dublin this week – which is about as close as an Irish team will ever get to it – and that remains their main priority.

Ireland are a stubborn pebble in their collective boots; a nagging annoyance at the end of a long 14-game season of often awesome endeavour.

But not, to the astonishment of all who are in their thrall, anywhere near perfection.

"Listen, it's boring press," assistant coach Ian Foster says, carrying a straight bat. "But it's the next game all the time for us, not the last game.

"We've been pleased with the results we've got, but not totally satisfied with performances; we want to play to a top level every week. We're chasing the great performances on this tour. Ireland being next is irrelevant.

"We're high on motivation. This is the next game. We want a great performance. That frankly is where our motivation is. It's irrelevant who we play."

It's a fairly simple mantra. As if to confirm the thesis, Foster then speaks of Ireland as if they were, well, the All Blacks. You want patronising soundbites?

"Playing in Dublin is pretty special, nothing comes easy for us here," he gushes. "It's a battle where you forget the past and live in the moment.

"That 60-0 in Hamilton is not a factor. They were tired and had used a lot of energy. The more accurate barometers were the first and second Tests. I guarantee you, there will be a bounce.

"We learned (in June 2012) that they're very committed, aggressive and they like to get on the front foot. We will expect a passionate, aggressive performance."

With leading stars such as Israel Dagg, Dan Carter (injured), Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam skipping off to Germany on promotional duty, it was left to Charles Piutau and Sam Cane to pitch up for media duties.

The All Blacks are a democratic – albeit meritocratic – republic of excellence, though. This is the side who once changed an entire team to face Ireland in Dublin – and still spanked the bejaypers out of them.

Piutau is a winger on fire since debuting in the 3-0 series win against France this summer, while flanker Cane enjoyed a whirlwind debut in the second Test against Ireland 12 months earlier.

"Ah yeah, that was a bit awesome," the loosie recalls. "First I'm told that Kieran Read isn't looking too hot and then the next thing I have to go on when Ireland are looking like they're going to get a draw.

"But, thankfully, I managed to get on and clear out a decent ruck. Then I saw Dan Carter's drop go between the posts for the win, so that was a nice feeling."

The following week in Hamilton, Cane's home patch, was even sweeter. He made 20 tackles and scored a brace of tries in the humiliation. "I only played well because my team-mates did," he deflects like a true democrat.

Cane is already an integral part of the All Blacks leadership, despite his international infancy. He gets to see the coaches working behind the scenes and is intimately involved in key decisions. One Richie McCaw started his career like this. Didn't do him any harm.

Irish Independent

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