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All Blacks coach Ian Foster ready to ‘start working’ with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck

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New faces, old heads and a certain rugby league convert.

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster.
Photo: Photosport

As usual, there was plenty to talk about in the first All Blacks squad of the year announced at the Fale O Samoa in Mangere on Monday.

Given the strong Pasifika flavour to the announcement, it was fitting the biggest oohs and ahhs were reserved for a newcomer of Samoan heritage.

Coach Ian Foster said the All Blacks latest league convert, and former Warriors captain, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had come on in leaps and bounds.

“If you look from the start of the [Super Rugby] campaign until now, he’s improving. Improving in a whole lot of aspects…

“By his own admission he’ll have some areas that he’s got to get a bit better at but we believe the time is right.

“Bring him in and let’s start working with him.”

Tuivasa-Sheck was one of six uncapped players named for next month’s series against Ireland, one of three teams the All Blacks lost to in 2021.

Also earning their maiden call-up, Blues team-mate Stephen Perofeta, Crusaders outside back Leicester Fainga’anuku, Chiefs forwards Aidan Ross and Pita Gus Sowakula and Highlanders halfback Folau Fakatava.

Having overcome injury and eligibility issues, Tongan-born Fakatava said it was special to be named alongside fellow Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith.

“Coming from Tonga, Aaron was my idol.

“I’m really competitive, same as him, and we were pushing each other to do our best and obviously he’s the best in the world.”

But Fakatava’s inclusion meant no space for Brad Weber or 78-test Hurricane TJ Perenara.

Foster didn’t want to comment specifically on Perenara’s exclusion, but indicated the door remained open.

Autumn International, Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales 30/10/2021
Wales vs New Zealand
New Zealand's TJ Perenara 
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Billy Stickland  / www.photosport.nz

Photo: Inpho / www.photosport.nz

“I had nine conversations yesterday with All Blacks from last year who weren’t named.

“They’re really tough. You could feel the passion on the end of the phone call.

“I know each of them will have a desire to get back in here and we’ve got to make sure that we’re part of that plan by giving them the direction they need.”

As for on-field direction, Sam Cane regained the captaincy after missing most of 2021 through injury.

Injury and illness had also hampered the Chiefs flanker this year, creating no shortage of public debate about his credentials as All Blacks skipper.

Foster said it was “not really” a debate among the selectors.

“I love the fact people care and everyone’s got their favourites.

“Two years ago I signalled I felt that Sam Cane was the All Black captain … do we trust him on the big stage? yes we do.

“I love his leadership and I think he’s the right person for the job.”

For his part, Cane was happy to have the job back.

And with a team like Ireland inbound, the All Blacks skipper said there was not much room for the slow starts we had often seen in this first series of the season.

“They’ve almost had our number. It hasn’t been easy.

“We’ve lost to them in Ireland twice now and once in Chicago and it’s been 10 years since they came out here so it’s going to be a really unique series.”

Fans had just 20 days to wait to watch the new All Blacks squad in action.

The sold-out first test at Eden Park was on July 2nd.

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