Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Ian Foster: Wallabies will be confident as always

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. Photo / Brett Phibbs
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster. Photo / Brett Phibbs

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster is expecting the Wallabies to revert to their confident selves as they prepare for the upcoming test against the All Blacks, despite the fact they were whitewashed at home by England recently and are coming up against the world champions.

The consistently poor performances by the five Super Rugby Australian teams could also be considered a factor to make Michael Cheika and his men pause for thought, but Foster said today none of those things will be important come August 20 at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.

"I don't think I've ever come across an Aussie team that isn't confident," he said. "They've got that gift of always being confident. When you look at that June series and then you look at the likes of [Will] Genia and Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell and [Adam] Ashley-Cooper and the likes [returning], we're going to be facing an entirely different team. We're preparing to play a team which got to the level they were playing at at the World Cup.

And they beat us in Sydney [last year], so I think there's enough facts there to hang our hat on."

The 27-19 defeat in Sydney 12 months ago was only the third loss during Steve Hansen's time as head coach of the All Blacks. It represented first blood in the battle between Cheika and him but the All Blacks got their own back with a 41-13 victory at Eden Park the following week and of course got the ultimate revenge in the World Cup final last year when they ran out 34-17 victors.

The performance of the New Zealand Super Rugby teams this year, plus the series victory over Wales in June, suggest most of Hansen's players have their games in order, and skipper Kieran Read said the competition for places within the squad had rarely been higher.

"That's a real positive for us," he said. "A strength through June was that the guys coming in put a lot of pressure on the starters. The All Blacks are a squad of 32 and we'll play our game and individuals will slot in wherever they are needed... certainly it's great to have the competition. At training it makes for some pretty tough sessions."

The squad, minus the resting Highlanders contingent and the Hurricanes, who are preparing for tomorrow's Super Rugby final against the Lions, have been based in Auckland over the past few days and trainer Nic Gill has been working them hard according to Foster and Read.

First-five Aaron Cruden had to be taken out of a session due to a tight groin, but it's not thought to be serious. "That [soreness] is natural when they come back in with a few big sessions," Foster said.

For Read it's good to be back after the Crusaders' early exit in the playoffs as he prepares to lead the team in the Rugby Championship for the first time against the old foe.

"It's a mental challenge... they're going to be hurting," he said. "They're certainly going to be training really hard over these next few weeks. A test team is different to a Super Rugby team. In the past when New Zealand Super Rugby teams haven't done well we've still performed well. They've got their best players playing and everyone's always keen to to play for their country.

"It's one that we relish as a group. I think it's important we get off to a good start in that Championship and the Bledisloe Cup is certainly something we love playing for and want to keep here in New Zealand."

- NZ Herald

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