All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has fired back at criticism of the Test match against a depleted Wales, saying injuries and having players unavailable are a “sign of the times”.
Wales will be without 20 players for Saturday’s Test match, including seven England-based stars who are unavailable for selection due to the fact that the game falls outside the official Test window.
The All Blacks have not lost a Test to Wales since 1953, so many are touting New Zealand for another victory in Cardiff.
However, Foster said that Wales’ depletion is being exaggerated and that the All Blacks are still expecting a tough encounter.
“I find it very hard to cheer up pessimists, so I won’t try to change their mind,” said Foster. “All I know is that it’s a Test match, New Zealand vs Wales. The sign of the time is there is always players missing through injury and stuff.
“It is outside the window and we all know that but we have known that for nine months. A few of the media are focusing on that two or three days before the Test but it’s nothing new up here.
“It would not be a Test week up here without people knocking the game or talking about the haka or something like that.
“It is a game both countries wanted and been in the schedule for a long time, so everybody has had a chance to plan and get ready for it.
“When you look at teams missing players some of them are through injury and that’s regardless of what window that’s in. I think the numbers have been blown up a bit.
“They are the Six Nations champions, you don’t do that by not having depth. Clearly they have got a few players who have not been released by clubs but that was always going to happen, so that’s not a surprise and their preparation has not been affected because they have known that.
“They have got a tight five that is largely intact, a lot of them are Lions from the South Africa tour, so there will be no surprise to see them go to that part of the game as being a key strength of theirs.’
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