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Dublin: 11°C Friday 25 September 2020

All Blacks braced for Ireland 'trying to suffocate us with possession'

New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster hopes to see his side meet Ireland head on and in the air.

Contact zone: Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett, Nathan Harris and Dane Coles throw a few slaps.
Contact zone: Ardie Savea, Jordie Barrett, Nathan Harris and Dane Coles throw a few slaps.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

ALL BLACK ASSISTANT coach Ian Foster is wary of Ireland’s relentless attacking strategy as he prepares to meet their closest-ranked rivals in Dublin.

Joe Schmidt’s men have worked incredibly hard in recent years to forge a reputation as a robust team with a pack capable of bullying most rivals throughout an 80-minute contest.

That physicality, combined with Schmidt’s breakdown focus and an increased skill-level within the forward pack has meant that Ireland are capable of mounting extended onslaughts of possession to put opposition defences through a rigorous test of stamina and concentration.

“We’re playing a team that is going to work hard on trying to suffocate us with possession,” said Foster, whose primary focus is New Zealand’s attacking game.

“We have to make sure that when we get opportunities to get the ball, that we’re really efficient at that and that our set-piece goes well… (and) we play in a manner that we get a really good chance to attack them properly.

In the past, they’re a team that likes to hold onto the ball and play multi phases against you. And when that doesn’t work they’ll go to an aerial game. We’ll have to be on top of our game in most areas.”

Foster is reluctant to say that Ireland have changed much since the sides last met in 2016. He sees a similar pattern to other nations in that Schmidt’s squad have expanded their options and ‘grown’ their gameplan.

“They’re no different to anyone else, we’re all trying to build to something in 12 months’ time,” adds Foster.

Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton Gamechanger: Rob Kearney looks set to return to Ireland's fullback slot this weekend. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“But really, it’s based around some core foundations, a tough working forward pack, they work hard on their set-piece delivery and work hard on their collision areas.

“I guess in some ways they do (have similar traits to New Zealand). There’s enough subtle differences to differentiate their game from ours, I think.”

Just as Ireland will be hoping to work out a few kinks that were on show in their last outing, New Zealand were relieved to escape Twickenham with a win despite a scrappy start that left them facing a 15-0 deficit.

Ian Foster Foster at New Zealand's press conference today. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“There was a lot of drama, it was tense, but we are intensely proud of the way our guys won that game,” says Foster of their long-awaited run-in with Eddie Jones’ England.

“We got ourselves into a bit of a mess at the start, but we got our way out of that and after that we won 16-0 and we played some reasonably good rugby in what weren’t great conditions.

“Now we have another big one and Ireland have had the chance to see us under pressure.

“They will have learned some stuff from watching us last week and we probably learned a bit from them from playing Argentina who put them under a bit of pressure.”

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Sean Farrell

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