All Blacks wary of improved Australia
An improved Australia looms large in All Blacks thoughts ahead of the first Investec Rugby Championship/Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney in just over a fortnight.
Assistant coach Ian Foster said from the All Blacks training camp on Auckland's North Shore on Wednesday that the Australian side had grown considerably during the last 12 months. He said from the first Test last year against New Zealand through until their end of year tour they had improved significantly.
"Clearly they have made some gains and they are a lot more comfortable with how they do things and I think the Waratahs success is going to boost their confidence a little.
"But we're also equally happy with where we are at. We're showing some signs. We finished June in a reasonably good spot probably similar to them in some ways so we are probably going to both go in pretty well prepared which is maybe a little bit different to 12 months ago," he said.
Foster didn't think the outcome of the Super final was an indicator ahead of the Tests although they would be watching to see how players performed.
The All Blacks were in charge of their own performance and, as always, it was a case of getting everyone together ahead of the Test and preparing well.
The Wallabies had made improvements to their set-piece and ball-carrying so the battle up front could be more competitive and the advantage up front would have to be hard-fought.
Foster said the aim of the camp was to review the England series with the players which was something they hadn't been able to do earlier, and to also reinforce some of the on-park strategies ahead of the Championship.
While the Crusaders were missing due to their Super Rugby final commitments, Foster said the time with the rest of the squad was a bonus while it also gave the fringe players included in the camp a chance to see what happened and to help them prepare if the opportunity comes their way in the future.
"Tony has been very, very durable for us and clearly we are going to give him a little window to see if it does come right but it just represents another opportunity," he said.
Woodcock's injury has been an on-going one but he was hit on the area causing concern for the Blues in the latter stages of their campaign and he was struggling to regain full control of his shoulder.
Wyatt Crockett and Ben Franks had been in the squad for a long time and had developed experience and they would be 'jumping out of their skins' for an opportunity.
"Underneath that it opens the door for a couple of guys who have worked really hard at Super Rugby and done really well. Kane [Hames] and Pauli [Manu] have done some really good stuff so it's just a chance for us to expose more guys so I think that is positive," he said.