• Reuters

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All Blacks coach Ian Foster has lauded his team for its record-breaking response to the challenge presented by the Wallabies in Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener as the squad prepares to head off for an open-ended tour of Australia.

New Zealand ran up a record points tally in the emphatic 57-22 victory over their neighbors at Eden Park, scoring five tries in the second half to secure the coveted Bledisloe Cup for the 19th straight season.

Any question marks over the 2021-vintage All Blacks were washed away in the Auckland rain as New Zealand ran rampant against an improving but still callow Australia side.

“We wanted to respond,” Foster told reporters in Auckland after the match. “The reason we had to respond is we knew the Aussies would lift. They played a combative, physical game in that first 40 and you could see they wanted to take us on up front.

“It was a good old ding-dong test match in that first period. But we stuck to our plan, even when we lost a couple of things early. We didn’t panic, or go away from what we wanted to do.

“What was exciting was when we got the opportunity, particularly with the ball, the group were quite lethal at latching into the space in front of them.”

Foster’s side will face the Wallabies again in Perth on Aug. 28 in a Rugby Championship test moved back by a week because of the uncertainty created by several outbreaks of COVID-19 around Australia.

Thereafter, the All Blacks are scheduled to play Argentina twice at as-yet-undetermined venues in Australia before returning home to host the world-champion Springboks in late September.

The suspension of the travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia means the South Africa test is now also likely to be played on the other side of the Tasman Sea, leaving the All Blacks uncertain when they will return home again.

Foster said a meeting was held last weekend where the players were able to ask questions about the prospect of being away from New Zealand for as long as three months.

“What we do know is we’re hopping on a plane and we’re playing at least until after the Argentinians, probably until after the South Africans,” he said.

“And then we don’t know what the quarantine situation is like, so we’ll make that decision when we’re over there.”

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