All Blacks get game plan right but off-field issues remain

Auckland (AFP) –


With the Bledisloe Cup wrapped up in a 57-22 demolition of Australia on Saturday, New Zealand have set their sights on the Rugby Championship with uncertainty surrounding coaches, venues and travel.

"It was a really good performance, one we're proud of," coach Ian Foster said after his All Blacks bounced back from an unconvincing win in the first Test to demolish the Wallabies in the second.

Questions around a high penalty count and poor finish in the first Test were answered.

But further questions remain as the squad prepares to fly to Australia next Sunday for what could be more than three months on the road and with Foster not knowing if he will have a job when he eventually gets home just before Christmas.

His two-year contract expires at the end of the year and New Zealand Rugby has yet to indicate if it will be renewed for Foster to take the side through to the 2023 World Cup in France.

The All Blacks, looking to regain the Rugby championship crown they lost to South Africa last year, also want to know where the matches are to be played with the original schedule thrown into chaos by Covid travel restrictions.

Their next game is against the Wallabies in Perth on August 28, followed by two Tests against Argentina which have been moved to Australia with venues yet to be determined.

The final two Tests against South Africa remain listed to be played in New Zealand but are also likely to be moved to Australia.

- 'Roll your sleeves up' -

With so many imponderables, Foster was pleased the All Blacks were able to stay focused on Saturday's Test where they held their own in a fairly even first half to lead 21-15 before blitzing the Wallabies with five second-half tries.

"It's been a big week sorting things out, and I'm really proud of our group because the balance is: do you front-foot these things and have good conversations about them, or do you lock it away and just get the game done and try to fix things up later," Foster said.

The team chose to meet last Sunday to clear the air as much as possible.

"We wrote up all the questions of the things we don't know and some of those will go to our board... and go to Jacinda (Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern). I don't know where they go but we don't know all the answers," Foster said.

"What we do know is we're hopping on a plane and playing (in Australia) at least till after the Argentinians and probably till after the South Africans and then we don't know what the quarantine situation is like," he added.

"As a group, what we've learned is not to hide the information from each other, but to use it, have a conversation, agree on what we know and don't know and then just get into it, roll your sleeves up".