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Ian Foster calls on his All Blacks to be ‘mentally sharp’ against France

Ian Foster All Blacks

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has called on his player to be “sharper mentally”, criticising some of the decision making during last weekend’s loss to Ireland.

It’s not often that New Zealand lose, but when they do pressure is heaped onto the side almost immediately, and should the All Blacks lose again this weekend their northern tour will be viewed as a failure.

The squad have been away from their homes and their families since travelling to Australia for the Rugby Championship back in September, having been unable to return to New Zealand due to the country’s strict travel rules as a result of the pandemic.

Foster acknowledged that his players will be mentally fatigued from a long tour but stressed to Stuff the importance of being completely focused on their final match of the year against France.

Ian Foster on the All Blacks final test against France.

“This team has achieved some great things this year, played some good rugby, and we’ve now had an experience in the northern hemisphere a number of players haven’t had,” Foster said.

“We’ve got to show our learning from last week. We’ve got to be sharper in how we make decisions and use opportunities, and if we do that I’ll be a satisfied coach.

“Everyone is aware we’re going home soon, but getting the mindset to overcome those thoughts and focus on this week has been pretty key for us. We’ve got to make sure we’re sharp mentally.

“We’ve been in a routine for a long, long time, but test matches require us to be sharply focused. Last week we saw a dampening of our decision-making; this week we’ve got to have our minds on that 80-minute performance.”

Les Bleus will believe they can end their losing streak against New Zealand.

France have lost their last 14 games against the All Blacks, but they will be confident that they can end that losing streak against a team that will likely be suffering with fatigue after a massive defensive effort against Ireland.

The All Blacks will be without key players such as Beauden Barrett and Anton Lienert-Brown after they suffered injuries against Ireland, although the return of veterans Aaron Smith and Sam Cane will spur them on.

The French haven’t been at their absolute best this autumn, but they have won their last two fixtures against Georgia and Argentina nonetheless, and have been steadily improving under Fabien Galthie.

A win against New Zealand would be a massive statement from France ahead of next year’s Six Nations, as they aim to become European champions for the first time in 12 years.

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