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Canada. Namibia. Not exactly the pointy end of the global game, but as far as the All Blacks are concerned they’re tantalising stepping stones on their journey to the promised land at this Rugby World Cup.
Assistant coach Ian Foster made that clear on Monday when he spoke about the importance of this middle period of pool play that the All Blacks are doing their level best to elevate in importance.
It’s easy to glaze over a little when you think about this next fortnight that will see the defending champions meet Canada in Oita on October 2 and then Namibia back in Tokyo four days later. They’re matches the All Blacks could negotiate with one hand tied behind their backs.
But winning a World Cup is a process. You don’t just rock up in a semifinal or final and flick a switch. You build your game throughout the tournament to the point that when all the marbles go on the line you are at your absolute sharpest.
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That, says Foster, will be achieved by the All Blacks understanding that what they produced in overcoming the Boks 23-13 in a heavyweight opening contest in Yokohama on Saturday will not be good enough when it really matters. And that Canada and Namibia serve a mighty purpose to that end.
“We’ve got three more opportunities to hone our game and get to the point we need it to be at,” said Foster. “Going into this Canada-Namibia phase we have two opportunities to grow confidence in some parts of our game we’re still not quite right with.
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