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NZ glad to draw Boks in World Cup pool

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 10/05/2017
Steve Hansen and Ian Foster © Getty Steve Hansen and Ian Foster

The presence of southern hemisphere foes South Africa in the All Blacks' 2019 Rugby World Cup pool will add a "real edge" to the early stages of the Japan tournament, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

New Zealand were drawn with the Springboks, Italy, an African qualifier and the repechage winner in Pool B of the tournament on Wednesday night.

And while the defending world champions will be glad to avoid a group of death involving the likes of Argentina, Foster said he was glad to draw South Africa early on.

He tipped the Springboks to be a more dangerous outfit by 2019, after struggling to impose racial quotas and remain competitive throughout 2016.

The All Blacks twice thrashed the Boks in the Rugby Championship last year, including a 57-15 thumping on South African soil.

However, all overseas-based South African players will be eligible for selection during World Cup years - strengthening their playing stocks significantly.

"If that comes to fruition, clearly they're going to be a different beast in a World Cup year," Foster told Radio Sport.

"I think we should be really satisfied, we've got a really big game in South Africa and that's going to make sure there's a real edge to things, and I think that's important."

Foster also backed Gli Azzurri, who his side demolished 68-10 in Rome in November, to cause waves with their versatility and strength at the set-piece.

The Italians also defeated South Africa for the first time in their history last year, lending credence to the possibility of a shock Springboks pool exit.

"Even though we've had a good edge over them for a really long time, I think they're an improving team," Foster said.

"Everyone's got teams they want to avoid but at the end of the day, if you really want to go in with the ambition of winning it, and we do, we know we'll have to beat everyone."

Of the two still-unqualified sides, Foster said he and the other All Blacks coaches would cast their eyes over the qualifying process closer to 2018.

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