Rugby World Cup: All Blacks welcomed to Lyon training base before tournament opener against France

All Blacks coach Ian Foster has cut a relaxed figure, as his team is welcomed to their World Cup training base of Lyon, before the tournament kicks off in seven days.

Still licking their wounds from a record 35-7 defeat to South Africa at Twickenham, the NZ side have spent the past week in Germany, away from prying eyes and able to address the aspects that let them down so badly against the reigning world champions.

Despite a setback that ended their 11-game unbeaten run, Foster seems happy the All Blacks are where they need to be and even fends off the emotion around his final weeks in charge of the national team.

All Blacks coach Ian Foster speaks at the Lyon welcome.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster speaks at the Lyon welcome. Photo credit: Getty Images

After two previous World Cups as an NZ assistant coach, he has been asked about his feelings over his last tournament, but isn't buying that assumption.

"Who said it's my last?" he responded cheekily.

NZ Rugby has already named Crusaders maestro Scott Robertson as Foster's successor next year, but events of recent weeks have served as a reminder that ex-All Blacks coaches remain in international demand.

Eighteen years after his first tenure ended, Eddie Jones' return to the Wallabies also shows coaches can regain the roles they once lost.

The South African defeat doesn't seem to have dented Foster's confidence in New Zealand's preparation, although he has changed his tune on a fixture that was treated as a test they desperately wanted to win on its own right, despite its niggly timing.

"Every team has prepared in a different way for this tournament," he said. "We feel we had a very strong Rugby Championship and had a bit of a break.

"We came over here and for us now, it's about building our team and our game, not just for next Friday, but right through this tournament.

"We're happy with where we're at now. We don't like losing, but it's a game that was really a warm-up for the World Cup and nothing matters now."

Despite facing home side France in the tournament opener, the All Blacks have found locals very respectful of a team that have proved their bogey in previous World Cups.

New Zealand have twice beaten the French at Eden Park in 1987 and 2011 to capture the Webb Ellis Trophy, but 'Les Bleus' have also dashed All Blacks hopes in huge 1999 (semi-final) and 2007 (quarter-final) upsets.  

Foster admits Parc de Prince - the scene of next week's clash - is his second-favourite rugby ground, behind the Auckland stronghold.

"We'll be the enemy for a while," he said. "We know that, but it won't change the fact I believe this city will host us magnificently.

All Blacks arrive at Lyon for World Cup.
All Blacks arrive at Lyon for World Cup. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's a fantastic city, we know they're excited about having us here and we can't complain about being in such a beautiful spot. Hopefully, over time, the relationship deepens and they grow to like us a little bit."

Foster has been assured the French have admiration for the All Blacks.

"In all my years, the All Black-French game is always a special one," he said. "We have a similar relationship with South Africa.

"The respect is very mutual, and it comes out of us both have victories and both having defeats on the field, yet when we walk off the field, both teams have respect for how they handle each other.

"I'm sure we'll have a great relationship with France, as a people. We promise to do what we can, but at the end of the day, we're here to win a tournament."

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