A decent old dent in the All Blacks’ pride remains as they return to the Test arena against France in Paris this weekend.
The world champions are still smarting from their 23-18 loss to Australia in Brisbane last month, with time not proving to be much of a healer.
A virtual New Zealand B side went some way to alleviating the strain with their 31-22 win over the Barbarians at Twickenham last week. However, it was a festival game and, as has been the case for much of the year, it wasn’t a compelling All Blacks performance.
Assistant coach Ian Foster says nobody in the squad is trying sugarcoat the Brisbane setback. They have addressed their shortcomings and expect considerably better against the injury-ravaged French.
“It niggles. The loss is one thing but it’s the quality of the performance that was really disappointing,” Foster said.
“We want to make sure that we put a statement on the park on Saturday that we’ve learned a lot of lessons from Brisbane. I think we went partly towards that, particularly in the second half of the Barbarians game.”
Foster said there could be few excuses this week and for the rest of the tour, where Tests await against Scotland and Wales. The resting of senior players last week was designed to have them firing against the French.
“I don’t think any All Black likes not being with us, or sitting in the grandstand or sitting at home and watching an All Blacks team play,” Foster said. “That certainly creates its own edge. It just feels good to have everyone back.”
Flanker Sam Cane, whose second-half injection at Twickenham played a part in the Barbarians’ downfall, is frustrated that Test performances haven’t matched the off-field effort put in this year.
He’s seen signs that it could come together over the rest of this month.
“Things we’ve been working on, we’ve been getting them 80 percent right,” he said. “If someone can work a wee bit harder to get back in place or another person looks up and sees where the space is, we’ll get there.
“Hopefully we can put all that out there.”