Suspending the Lipovitan D rugby championship and the Bledisloe Cup for another year was one thing, but pursuing those achievements on their northern tour of Japan and Europe would be vital for the All Blacks.
Coach Ian Foster said it was “very satisfying” to win the championship, especially that it had to be won the hard way.
North tours have always been difficult due to end-of-season fatigue and the travel that entails, but this year they have been helped by an extra week-long break without a third Bledisloe Cup game.
They have a three day camp in Nelson and will be fresher than previous years.
They play Japan on October 29 in Tokyo, Wales on November 6 (NZT) in Cardiff, Scotland on November 14 in Edinburgh and England on November 20.
“It’s a conscious strategy. We’re really going to get into this Northern Hemisphere tour.
“It’s important that we end this in a position where we have a really clear picture of what we’re going to do because next year is pretty thin when you look at our preparation for a World Cup,” he said.
The All Blacks would have five Tests before the World Cup in 2023, so they needed to maximize their opportunities.
Foster said the 2022 win was unlike other championships the All Blacks have won.
“Doing it behind the eight at the start and climbing through it wasn’t what we wanted. I’m really proud of the effort the guys put in. They worked hard, they were open-minded about some small things, and I think we’re starting to see the results of that.”
The lessons of the campaign were that they remain tough under pressure and while finding solutions was awkward for everyone at times, it was necessary to follow through with the goal of getting the right performance.
They aren’t the finished article that was featured in their Eden Park win again.
“The building blocks are nice, but there are still a lot of finishing touches that we’re not quite getting right yet. But what a great place,” he said.
Converting line breaks was an area that required attention, as was leaving Australia on the scorecard late in the game.
“These are small things, but in 12 months they will be important things.”
Foster felt great strides had been made in defense and set pieces, but they still weren’t an 80-minute team. That was because of the experience on the other side.
“It takes a while for people to understand that in a test match, if you run away for half a second, you will be punished.
“We’ve seen signs over the past two months that we’ve had a lot of good spells in games, but we just didn’t quite understand that if you don’t nail every little moment, you’re going to get hurt. And once you do hurt on the scoreboard, then it becomes difficult to catch up.”
It was about playing against different teams, staying in the moment and then looking to the next moment.
“We have proven to ourselves that we can climb through adversity and there is more to come.
“That’s what international rugby is all about.
“I’m proud of how the team handled the pressure of not getting to the level they wanted and the pressure that comes with that,” said Foster.
Before announcing the team for the North Tour in two weeks, he would consider his options in midfield, where Jordie Barrett impressed in Saturday’s win.
“What a great athlete. He’s played well for us at full-back and on the wing and has played really well now at 12 [second five-eighths]. He certainly had a big impact last night.”
Foster was pleased with the development on his front row. It had been a season where they intended to make marks, particularly to see where their veteran players stood, and part of that was injecting a couple of younger players who deserved a chance.
“It was a journey for her too. You can go back and talk about Ethan [de Groot], for example, and his journey from Super Rugby and then we have to spend six weeks getting him up to the level of fitness that he needed to do. But the real message is that if you want to get the work done outside of the park, there are options. And he took it well.”
Not only would they pick their team for the Northern Tour, they would also choose the All Blacks XV for a two-game tour of the UK, including a game against the Barbarians on November 13 at Tottenham Stadium and another game that yet to be confirmed.
Due to their schedule and need to develop as a team, there would be minimal overlap between the sides, he said.