Foster urges New Zealand fringe players to take chance against Italy

‘You only build depth when people seize the opportunity that you give them,’ says coach

New Zealand head coach Ian Foster: Next few games are vital for building squad depth ahead of the 2023 World Cup. Photograph: Getty

Italy v New Zealand, Stadio Olimpico, Saturday, 1pm Irish time – Live on Amazon Prime

New Zealand coach Ian Foster has challenged his players to provide him with a selection headache going into the final two matches of the autumn international series after picking a virtual second-string side to face Italy in Rome on Saturday.

Foster said the next few games are vital for building squad depth ahead of the 2023 World Cup and, with games versus Ireland and France to come, has asked those picked for the weekend to make his selection decisions as difficult as possible.

“I hope it [selection] is incredibly tough. You only build depth when people seize the opportunity that you have give them,” said Foster.

“What we have been delighted with over the last two months is that we have made sure we have given opportunities, but the credit goes to the players.


“The reason we are talking about our depth at the moment is because, to a man, when we have given someone a jersey, they have gone out there and done a really good job.”

The All Blacks brushed aside an understrength Wales 54-16 last weekend and, even with a number of their regulars rested for the clash with the Italians, they are expected to win comfortably.

Foster has cautioned against getting carried away though and says the Tests against Ireland and France, who they will meet in the opening game of the next World Cup in Paris, will be a better yardstick for where they are as a squad.

“You can get over-confident and the reality is we will only have good depth if we keep producing performances. When we look at [selection for] the last two weeks of this tour, a lot will depend on the quality of our performance on Saturday.

“We can’t excuse anything below a level that we really want to play at. If we [play at that level], there will be a lot of pressure [for places] in the last two weeks.”

ITALY: Matteo Minozzi; Federico Mori, Juan Ignacio Brex, Marco Zanon, Montanna Ioanne; Paolo Garbisi, Stephen Varney; Danilo Fishcetti, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Marco Riccioni; Marco Fuser, David Susi; Sebastian Negri, Michele Lamaro, Renato Giammarioli.

Replacements: Luca Bigi, Ivan Nemer, Pietro Ceccarelli, Niccolo Cannone, Federico Ruzza, Abraham Steyn, Callum Braley, Carlo Cana.

NEW ZEALAND: Damian McKenzie, Sevu Reece, Braydon Ennor, Quinn Tupaea, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Brad Weber; George Bower, Dane Coles, Tyrel Lomax; Tupou Vaa'i, Josh Lord; Luke Jacobson, Sam Cane (capt), Hoskins Sotutu.

Replacements: Asafo Aumua, Ethan de Groot, Ofa Tuungafasi, Sam Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Finlay Christie, David Havili, Jordie Barrett.