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Bledisloe battle for most-improved: Foster

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/10/2016 Angelo Risso

All Black Assistant Coach Ian Foster © Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images All Black Assistant Coach Ian Foster All Blacks assistant Ian Foster says Saturday's Bledisloe dead rubber will be a contest between two sides on the up.

The world champions thumped Australia 42-8 in Sydney and 29-9 in Wellington in their first two Bledisloe encounters, securing a 14th straight crown.

They have since gone on to record a perfect Rugby Championship campaign with four straight-forward wins against Argentina and South Africa.

Victory on Saturday at Eden Park will secure the All Blacks a record 18 consecutive Test wins, having gone unbeaten since last year's Rugby Championship.

The Wallabies, meanwhile, went on to record a morale-boosting 23-17 win over the Springboks before two wins over Los Pumas.

Foster says the Wallabies had produced a more clinical brand of rugby since the side's August encounters and were looking promising.

But the All Blacks had improved as well, culminating in their record 57-15 demolition of South Africa in Durban two weeks ago.

"We've certainly stepped up a little bit from August so I think there's two improved teams," Foster said.

"We'll see who has improved most."

Veteran blindside Jerome Kaino, who returned from a shoulder injury to take part in Durban, echoed Foster's thoughts.

The Wallabies had grown more competitive at the breakdown in the absence of stalwart loosie David Pocock and looked dangerous with Quade Cooper at first-five.

The potential re-addition of Pocock to the side's lineup would make life even harder for the All Blacks.

"They've kind of realised that other guys have to pick up the hole he's left, and if they have him back, that'll just add more steel," the 33-year-old Kaino said.

"Australia will be a different beast this time around."

The thought of going one better than dominant All Blacks sides of the past and securing an 18th-straight Test on home soil win excited Kaino.

Several players, including Kaino himself, took part in the All Blacks' 12-all draw with Australia in 2014 when history was last on the line.

He was determined to produce more this time around, with Australia winless at Eden Park since 1986.

"There's no hiding from it, it's going to be said and mentioned," Kaino said.

"They're not going to lie down, there's nothing more they'd like than to spoil our party and it's our challenge to get excited about that."

The side re-grouped in Auckland on Tuesday, fortified by the additions of first-five Aaron Cruden and incumbent openside Sam Cane.

Star halfback Aaron Smith, meanwhile, will miss out after voluntarily standing down from the side for an incident in a Christchurch Airport toilet.

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