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All Blacks to combat travel with rotation

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 18/09/2016 Daniel Gilhooly

They've started the year with a bang and the All Blacks say they can finish it the same way if they introduce rotation on the road.

Beginning in Buenos Aires next month, the All Blacks play their last seven Tests of the year in the space of nine weeks, including six offshore.

Matching their perfect seven-from-seven start will be a sizeable task, even given their imperious form.

With the Rugby Championship trophy locked away, personnel changes will be made for the remaining Tests away to Argentina and South Africa.

Assistant coach Ian Foster says player rotation will help achieve a longer-term objective.

He reckons sharing the load will be fundamental part of the All Blacks conquering their annual travel demands, especially on the season-ending tour in November.

"What we've learned is how tough it (travel) is. I think if you just go in and ignore it, then by the end of November, you're in trouble," Foster said.

"We go into a big travel phase now and now's the time that we need the whole group stepping up and performing."

New Zealand were thrashed 38-21 by England in the final Test of 2012 at Twickenham and nearly suffered defeat in the 2013 season finale against Ireland in Dublin.

They were unbeaten on the 2014 November tour but still struggled to maintain the form from earlier in the season.

This year the All Blacks have set the bar high again.

No team has come within 13 points of the world champions, who believe they are gradually achieving their aim of lifting standards to a new level.

Most All Blacks starting positions have viable backup candidates awaiting their chance.

There has been a call from some commentators to tweak the midfield, where second five-eighth Ryan Crotty and centre Malakai Fekitoa have been more workmanlike than wondrous.

Foster disagreed, saying the pair are performing a sterling job.

"In some ways, the 12 and 13 are the unsung heroes. They don't get a lot of mention but Ryan and Mala have given us real solidarity there, in both attack and defence."

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