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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ian Foster happy to quell ‘panic’ over All Blacks’ World Cup chances

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The All Blacks have laid down a marker for the remainder of the Rugby World Cup following their superb 96-17 victory over Italy in Pool A on Friday, with a delighted coach Ian Foster admitting he did not see the huge scoreline coming.

New Zealand ran in 14 tries as they overwhelmed Italy to move into second place in the group with 10 points, and on course for a quarter-final place with a game against Uruguay to come on Thursday next week.

“We came here expecting to play well with a good build-up to it,” Foster said. “We knew the importance of the game and that this is what World Cups are about. We delivered, so I am pleased with that.

“It’s about building momentum at this World Cup and that was a marker we put down.”

New Zealand were coming off a two-week break following their 71-3 win over Namibia, giving them plenty of preparation time, but also some frustration at sitting idle on the sidelines.

“It felt a bit strange having that gap after the Namibia game,” he said. “I did not see this (scoreline against Italy) coming, I am not sure too many did.

“But we took their hope away in that first 20 minutes and maybe they started to think about another big game they have next week against France.”

Foster believes some might dismiss the scoreline as Italy having a bad day rather than New Zealand a good one, but he was pleased to see how his side responded to the challenge.

“If you win by a big scoreline, people think there is no value in it. But it is massive for us because we put ourselves under pressure to produce that performance.”

New Zealand look odds-on to make the quarter-finals and will likely play Ireland, but Foster is not looking that far ahead.

“I have got no preference who we play,” he said. “I don’t spend time thinking about what might happen in two or three weeks.

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“People create a lot of panic about your chances and all that sort of stuff, particularly after we lost the first one (against France). But this was always going to be the critical game in this pool.

“We have put ourselves in control of our own destiny and that is what we wanted.”

Foster had praise for second row Sam Whitelock, who won a record-breaking 149th cap for New Zealand.

“To stand alone at the top for appearances for this team is pretty special. He deserves it,” the coach said. “He’s been a warrior for a long, long time and continues to do that job.”


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