All Blacks fight for bus seats and food as depth shows
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The All Blacks have been left scrapping for food and the best seats on the team bus as the old heads of the world champion outfit are forced to accommodate a raft of young guns.
Assistant coach Ian Foster predicted a "demanding" week ahead for the New Zealand backroom staff with an enlarged squad of 43 players.
A host of more experienced players were rested for the opening tour victory over the Barbarians, but they are now back for France and rubbing shoulders with a crop of outstanding up-and-coming talent that underlines New Zealand's strength in depth.
"In some ways it's more complex, in some ways it's easier," Foster said of the squad.
"You've got a fully fit squad to train against, you've got plenty of energy.
"You have the ability to run players against a full XV-on-XV scenario, which you sometimes don't have on tour what with injuries or illnesses."
Foster added: "There are scraps to see who sits where on the bus, they're fighting for every bit of food and every seat they can get!"
While lauding the inclusion of younger players, Foster played down the theory that it was an integral part of a longer-term strategy with an eye on the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
"The answer is no, but yes a little bit," Foster said.
"You're always thinking of trying to take a helicopter view, looking at the bigger picture and assessing things, but you don't stay long in that state.
"The art of it is to focus on the here and now... because that's what Test match rugby is about.
"If we don't [do that], we don't get what we want.
"This game against France is all that matters."
Turning to France, whom New Zealand take on at the Stade de France on Saturday, Foster expressed his wariness at Les Bleus' long injury list.
"Talk about injuries and disruptions can galvanise a team," said the former Waikato flyhalf.
"We're all under pressure for results.
"When I look at the French situation, I see a massive player base... you've got a lot of quality players here. In some ways it's a little bit like us where you've been forced to give a number of newer, younger players more game time in bigger games and sometimes that can be a blessing in disguise.
"There'll be people out there wearing the blue jersey wanting to put their best foot forward.
"They're a team that is evolving," he said, calling France the "highest off-loading team in the world".
"If we let them do that with their enthusiasm and younger players, we're going to be in trouble."
Foster added: "From what we've seen, it's actually exciting times for France because if that can get some of these younger boys through, like Damien Penaud and the midfield, if they get an opportunity, it's going to be massive for the depth of French rugby going forward and our job is to make those lessons quite hard."