All Blacks turn attention to Northern Tour

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Coach Ian Foster said claiming the Championship was 'very satisfying,' especially having to win it the hard way.

Northern tours were always tough due to fatigue at the end of a season and with the travel involved, but they have been helped this year by having an extra week's break without a third Bledisloe Cup match.

They have a three-day camp in Nelson and will be fresher than in previous years.

They play Japan in Tokyo on October 29, Wales in Cardiff on November 6 (NZT), Scotland in Edinburgh on November 14 and England on November 20.

"That's a deliberate strategy. We're going to get really stuck into this northern hemisphere tour.

"It's important we finish that in a position that we've got a really clear picture of what we're going to do because next year's pretty thin when you look at our prep before a World Cup," he said.

The All Blacks would have five Tests in 2023 before the World Cup, so they had to maximise their opportunities.

Foster said the 2022 win was different to other Championships the All Blacks have won.

"To do it from behind the eight ball at the start, and to have to climb through that was not the way we wanted. I'm really proud of the effort the boys have put in. They've worked hard, they've been open-minded about some different little things, and I think we're starting to see the results of it."

Lessons from the campaign have been that under pressure, they stay tight and that while seeking solutions had made everyone uncomfortable at times, it had been necessary to go through with the goal of getting the performance right.

They are not the finished article, which was seen again in their Eden Park win.

"The building blocks are nice but there's still a lot of finishing touches we're not quite getting right. But what a great spot to be," he said.

Converting line breaks was one area needing attention, as was letting Australia back on the scorecard late in the game.

"They're small things, but they'll be important things in 12 months time."

Foster felt big strides in defence and set-piece play had been made, but they were still not an 80-minute team. That was down to experience across the side.

"It takes a while to get people to understand that you knock off for half a second in a Test match, you get punished.

"We've seen signs in the last two months that we had a lot of good spells in games, but we just didn't quite get the fact that if you don't nail every little moment you get hurt. And once you get hurt on the scoreboard then it becomes hard to catch up."

It was about playing against different teams yet remaining in the moment and then looking to the next moment.

"We've proven to ourselves that we can climb through adversity, and there'll be more to come.

"That's what international rugby is about.

"I'm proud of the way the team's dealt with the pressure of not performing to the level we want and the pressure that comes with that," Foster said.

Before announcing the team for the northern tour in two weeks, he would be thinking about his options in midfield, where Jordie Barrett impressed in Saturday's win.

"What a great athlete. He's played well for us at fullback and on the wing and now has played really well at 12 [second five-eighths]. He certainly had a big impact last night."

Foster was pleased with the development in his front row. It had been a season where they intended to put out markers, especially in seeing where their experienced players were at, and part of that was injecting a few younger players who deserved a chance.

"It's been a journey for them too. You can go back and talk about Ethan [de Groot], for example, and his journey from Super Rugby and then us having to spend six weeks getting him to the fitness levels he needed to do. But the real message is that if you're wanting to do the work off the park then there's opportunity. And he has taken that well."

As well as selecting their team for the northern tour, they would also choose the All Blacks XV for a two-game tour of the United Kingdom, including a game against the Barbarians on November 13 at Tottenham Stadium and one more game yet to be confirmed.

Because of their schedule and the need for them to develop as a team, there would be minimal crossover between the sides, he said.

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