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Half South African Mark Tele’a recalled for All Black’s World Cup semi-final against Argentina

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New Zealand coach Ian Foster made two changes and one positional switch to his starting XV to play Argentina in the Rugby World Cup semi-final on Friday, including recalling winger Mark Tele’a.

In-form Tele’a was dropped for the quarter-final against Ireland, which the All Blacks won 28-24, after breaking team protocol.

He makes his return at the expense of Leicester Fainga’anuku, who drops out of the match-day 23 altogether in what Foster called a “tough selection”.

“That’s the team we think is best for this week,” said Foster. “Mark has done his time. He made a mistake, he accepted what was happening, but you don’t linger in that space.

“He’s been our form winger,” he added. “We have a lot of faith in him.”

Tele’a is joined in the back three by full-back Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan, with Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett in midfield, and Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith continuing in the half-backs.

Sam Whitelock comes into the second row with fellow veteran Brodie Retallick moving to the bench.

Whitelock packs down at lock with the third Barrett brother, Scott, as Sam Cane skippers the side from openside flanker, alongside No 8 Ardie Savea and blindside Shannon Frizell in the back row.

Props Tyrel Lomax and Ethan de Groot form the front row with hooker Codie Taylor.

There is one newcomer among the replacements, hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho preferred to Dane Coles.

“Rugby World Cup play-offs are a series of finals,” said Foster.

“We know that the intensity only increases as you progress through the knockout stages and we are preparing accordingly.

“We have received amazing support from our country and fans. The atmosphere at our games has been tremendous and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of that.”

Foster added: “The team is determined to give it everything in this special occasion against Argentina who are a quality team with a proven record in Rugby World Cup play-off games. We are very respectful of that.”

The All Blacks play regularly against Argentina in the Rugby Championships, something Foster said was beneficial to both teams.

“The past sets it up beautifully,” he said. “We do know each other but not in terms of a Rugby World Cup.

“It’s new territory for us. We’ve learned to greatly respect Argentina. They’re perhaps an underrated team worldwide. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”

Foster also played down talk of New Zealand being favourites to Argentina, who beat Wales 29-17 in their quarter-final, as underdogs.

“You’ve never heard us say we’re favourites,” he insisted. “We’re in a World Cup semi-final, we know these games are do-or-die.

“Whoever gets to to this stage has won games and done really well.”

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There are 12 survivors in the match-day team from the All Blacks’ World Cup semi-final loss against England in Japan four years ago.

That includes skipper Cane.

“There are plenty of us who have hurt and scars from 2019,” he said. “There are two different Mondays we can turn up for next week and one of them is pretty horrible.”

New Zealand (15-1)

Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Mark Tele’a; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (capt), Shannon Frizell; Scott Barrett, Samuel Whitelock; Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan de Groot

Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown

AFP

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