All Blacks: Foster wary of wounded England

By Daniel Richardson

All Black assistant coach Ian Foster. Photo / Christine Cornege
All Black assistant coach Ian Foster. Photo / Christine Cornege

A depleted England line-up worries All Black assistant coach Ian Foster.

The back end of the Northern Hemisphere's domestic season is causing selection headaches for England, who travel to New Zealand to meet the All Blacks in a three-test series next month.

The tourists will likely be under-manned for the first test at Eden Park in Auckland on June 7.

"I think that makes them very dangerous," Foster said.

"I know if we had 10 players that couldn't play in that first game the players we put in there would be playing for their lives. So let's make no mistake, that first week's going to be a massive week because there's going to be guys in there in the English jersey that are going to be desperate to play very, very well for their own future."

The All Blacks are in Wellington for a three-day training camp, which got under way yesterday. Given that the practice sessions have to be worked in around Super Rugby, the camps have a strong focus on game plans and team structures.

This week's camp, which follows on from last week's get-together in Christchurch, also gives the All Blacks selectors a chance to look at new players and perhaps refine their thinking around some selection dilemmas.

Plenty of players have performed admirably at Super Rugby level in recent weeks, which made for tough competition within the All Black set-up.

"All the boys are playing well and you can see that in the teams that they play for," said wing Julian Savea. "So it's good for the All Blacks."

After this week's camp, players will return to their respective franchises with one more round of Super Rugby to play before the three-week international window kicks in.

Given All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will name his 31-strong squad to meet England on Sunday, this week's dose of Super Rugby could be vital for players on the fringe of the squad.

"These rounds are important for us and clearly there are some people who are putting their hand up and forcing us to think and long may that continue," Foster said.

Spirited local derbies have made for entertaining viewing in recent weeks, with more of the same likely this weekend when the Hurricanes meet the Blues in Auckland.

"Everyone's having a real crack at each other," Foster said. "So it's great to watch from a competition perspective. I guess we do cross our fingers and hope we don't lose too many [players to injury]."

- APNZ

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