Managing a squad that has swelled to 43 players comes with its challenges.

This northern tour squad is thought to be largest in the professional era for the All Blacks.

Thirty-one players originally flew to London for the opening match against the Barbarians; five rested senior statesmen plus rookie centre Jack Goodhue, who stayed at home to recover from the mumps, then joined the team, taking numbers to 37.

Five more from the Baabaas boosted things further, and then Luke Whitelock joined as cover for the injured Jerome Kaino.


It makes for plenty of bodies at training this week in Paris; one expensive wage bill ($322,500) and a very full team bus.

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Traditionally, those with most experience occupy the back of the bus. With such full transport it has left tentative newbies clambering for seats further forward.

And that's not the only place competition has spread.

"They're fighting for every bit of food and every seat they can get so that side of it has brought a bit of energy to the squad at a good time," All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said. "We've got to make sure we don't get distracted by the size and we keep focused on one task which is the test match against France on Saturday."

Except there is not just one task this week. While the All Blacks test naturally takes priority, management are simultaneously preparing another team for the match in Lyon against a French XV next Wednesday (NZT).

Locally at least, that fixture is being promoted as a second test. The French were given three options to call their team - French XV, France or Les Bleus. They went with France, which suggests how seriously they are taking that contest.

Along with ensuring the test team is ready to go, plans have been made and meetings held with players outside the first-choice group, the likes of Crusaders halves Mitchell Drummond and Richie Mo'unga, to get them up to speed.

With Beauden Barrett, Lima Sopoaga and Damian McKenzie likely to be involved in all three tour tests, Mo'unga could well start in Lyon.

Many of the team to face the French XV will come from the one which came from behind to overcome the Barbarians at Twickenham, with the desire to protect the vast majority of those involved in the Scottish test next week.

Five players will fly home after the French XV match, making the task of managing the squad easier for the final two week in Edinburgh and Cardiff.

A larger squad at training this week has its advantages with this group able to run full opposed sessions. Players not involved have been instructed to watch and learn their positions when not involved.

Outside field sessions, it means less one-on-one time and more group chats. It's a situation New Zealand teachers could relate to with the ever-increasing class sizes.

"In some ways it's more complex and in some ways it's easier," Foster said. "It is a bit more demanding - it's going to be a busy week."