All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is preparing as usual for his first Tests in charge, despite the uncertainty of coronavirus currently looming over global sport.
Foster took over from Steve Hansen at the end of last year, and his first three Tests as All Blacks boss are scheduled to be against Wales in Auckland and Wellington in July, followed by a match against Scotland in Dunedin later that month.
However, with rugby halted at both domestic and international levels as a way of preventing the spread of Covid-19, those Tests aren’t guaranteed to go ahead.
In an interview with Radio Sport, Foster said he is in contact with members of his coaching staff – albeit over video while current restrictions remain in place – as a way of planning for their first Test of the season against Wales on 4 July.
‘I had a call with the coaches yesterday. We’re getting into a certain way of talking to each other, using video, and we’re going to use this time to develop our plans for what’s coming,’ Foster said.
‘We don’t know when it’s going to come but that’s really irrelevant right now. What’s important is that we give ourselves some short-term tasks that are meaningful and get stuck into it. I think the keys are we’ve just got to find ways to stay connected when this virus is trying to pull us apart.’
With Vodacom Super Rugby currently suspended due to Covid-19, Foster admits it’s difficult to gauge the players’ readiness for the international campaign even though he has already set his sights on squad contenders.
‘The formula we have of bringing guys back and making sure when they do play, they play well, has been really effective,’ Foster said.
‘There have been some really good performances from All Blacks. Often we’re talking about how All Blacks are playing poorly or saving themselves. But you don’t hear any of that now.
‘And there were some exciting young players starting to put their hands up. The frustrating thing from a selectors’ view is every year this happens and it’s how they evolve that we get really interested in,’ he added.
‘That’s going to make it harder at selection time, trying to balance up how much that early-season form collates to them in those big, playoff games. So, c’est la vie.
‘History tells us the second half of Super Rugby is generally a lot more intense, the weather changes, the pressure comes up, and you get into the playoffs and a lot that is more indicative of Test match-type quality we’re looking for,’ Foster explained.
‘We’re bracing ourselves as selectors that we may not have that information when we pick a team. That’s OK, we’ll go with what we know.’
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