All Blacks keen to show improved edge

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Lynn McConnell     08 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Assistant coach Ian Foster said now that the full squad was on hand, after key players were given an extra week at home, there was an edge in the preparation.

That was helped by the fact no player liked missing the chance to play, and as a result of the 43-man squad preparing for the French leg of the tour. That allowed the side to have two full teams at training and the chance to create match situations.

Foster said he felt the side went part way towards fixing their issues from Brisbane in the second half of the Barbarians game.

"But we want to make sure we put a bit of a statement on the field on Saturday that we've learnt a lot of lessons from Brisbane," he said.

Wing Rieko Ioane trained for the first time on Tuesday after recovering from mumps and while his energy levels were down a little he would be assessed over the next 48 hours. The challenge he faced was being able to recover from training and that would be determined on Thursday because he would need to be at 100 percent on Saturday.

If Seta Tamanivalu was called on to play on the wing, Foster said he had been quite pleased with him in the Barbarians game and was confident he could step up.

"What he did with the ball in hand was really positive. He had some really good defensive reads and there's a couple of things around his decision-making at the contact and his decisions on the defensive reads [that] have probably been his major work-on the last 12 months. Both of which he's making big strides in," he said.

Canterbury and Highlanders No.8 Luke Whitelock had been called into the side as cover for Jerome Kaino who suffered a knee injury against the Barbarians and he would be given a few days to see how that settled down.

Liam Squire had been ill and was unable to train. Prop Tim Perry had a hamstring issue during Tuesday training and would continue to be assessed.

Foster said if Squire wasn't able to play, Vaea Fifita had shown he was capable of stepping up.

"He's certainly taken every chance he's been given. When you look at his game against the Barbarians, in our mind when it went up a cog from his first start, he still had that trademark run and that trademark of not passing at the end of it but in between that I thought his contribution around the park on a lot of the detail side of the game was actually really good.

"So clearly he's stepping up, learning a lot. His physicality side was good so every challenge we've given him he's been able to accept and take on and if he does get another chance it's going to be the biggest one of his career. He'll be nervous about that but he's more than capable," he said.

So far as the French side was concerned they had heard of injury concerns but the All Blacks had been through that and knew the galvanising effect that could have on those players given an opportunity.

There was a massive player base in France and they had information on many of their players built up through the Six Nations and watching Top 14 games. France was a side that was evolving, especially with a change in styles, but at the same time they were the side with the highest off-loading percentage in the world.

"So we know that if we allow them to do that with their enthusiasm and younger players we're going to be in trouble," Foster said.

"It's actually an exciting time for France because if they can get some of these younger boys through, and they get an opportunity, it is going to be massive for the French [in the future].

"Our job is to make sure we make their lessons quite hard," he said.