Fans want to see All Blacks tested

Fiji took it to the All Blacks last week, dominating parts of the game and securing their best ever Test result against New Zealand. Now more fans are showing up.

Saturday's game in Hamilton will draw the biggest crowd for the All Blacks this year.

Only 15,103 fans turned up in Dunedin for game one against Fiji, more than at Mt Smart for New Zealand's win over Tonga, but still disappointing for an All Blacks test match.

Waikato Stadium is heading towards a sell-out and for the double-header between Manu Samoa and Tonga followed by the All Blacks against Fiji.

After Fiji's showing last week All Blacks coach Ian Foster thinks the public might be more clued up now about what type of opposition his side is facing.

"The nice thing is is that it seems everyone is on alert now, it's not only us that know the Fijians are quite good but everyone else is thinking that so it's added a bit of spice to the Test," Foster said.

After last week's efforts with just a couple of trainings under their belts and having just got out of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, many punters and pundits want to see what Fiji can do after a full week's build-up.

Three backs - Frank Lomani, Moses Sorovi and first five Teti Tela - joined the squad from Australia this week and Fiji coach Vern Cotter said their inclusion had buoyed the other players.

However, Cotter said not everything was running smoothly in the Fiji camp a couple of days out from the test.

"To be perfectly honest I'm a little worried, it wasn't a great training [on Thursday], it wasn't a full focus on our jobs, got the feeling that we haven't quite done our homework yet."

Cotter blamed off-field distractions for his players poor showing on the training field, including the ongoing issues around the team wearing jerseys supporting Covid-19 vaccinations.

The team ditched the idea last week due to player opposition, but have struck a compromise for Saturday and the jerseys will now read "Vaccinate Fiji" with an additional "It's Your Choice" message alongside it.

The All Blacks first-five Richie Mo'unga, who is back in the starting side this week, pushing Beauden Barrett to the bench, is not counting on the visitors being off their game.

He said while Fiji's strength may have flown under the noses of many All Blacks fans, the players have been aware of their abilities for some time.

"Nothing surprised me at all we knew what we were going to get, those who didn't know what to expect were some of the New Zealand public that don't watch European rugby, because these guys are rockstars over there.

Ardie Savea returns from injury to play openside in his 50th game for the All Blacks and to be playing a milestone match against a Pacific nation is something he will treasure.

"Gets my heart and my soul pounding, watching Samoa play against the Maori, us playing against Tonga and Fiji it's pretty special. I'm fond of the Island brothers and the Island nations and being able to uplift them because I know deep down if those teams are firing then our game as a whole and in the world becomes a spectacle and a lot more people want to watch that."

Two of those Pacific nations, Samoa and Tonga, will also do battle in Kirikirioa on Saturday afternoon with a place at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France on the line.

Manu Samoa beat Tonga 42-13 in the first of two world cup qualifying matches in Auckland last weekend and the side with the best overall aggregate score over the two matches will qualify for the showpiece event.