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'Stats are stats': Foster on All Blacks' first-ever pool defeat

REACTION: The All Blacks found themselves on the wrong side of history in the opening match of the World Cup 2023 on Friday.

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New Zealand lost their first-ever World Cup pool match when they went down 13-27 to hosts France in this year’s opener in Saint-Denis on Friday.

Regarded as one the favourites, Ian Foster’s men started the match in sublime fashion – Mark Telea scoring a try in the opening two minutes.

Telea scored another five-pointer in the second half which handed the All Blacks a 13-9 lead.

However, failure to execute, coupled with ill-discipline in the last 30 minutes of the match proved to be costly.

France’s duo Damian Penaud and Melvyn Jaminet scored respective tries, while France fullback Thomas Ramos kept the scoreboard ticking – contributing 17 points to his team’s total tally.

The defeat comes just two weeks after All Blacks suffered their largest-ever margin of loss to the Springboks in London.

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Speaking to reporters after the match All Blacks head coach Ian Foster hinted that the historic defeat is far from a bad omen for their campaign.

“Stats are stats, I understand all that,” Foster said.

“But in the past, we have won all our pool games but not won the tournament, and our goal is to win the tournament. This was always going to be massive, we know how strong France is.

“You saw ambition from us and whenever we had the opportunity to play, we were pretty efficient at taking it. But they denied us opportunities to attack them in their half.”

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“It was frustrating that some of the pictures we painted for the ref at scrum were penalised and perhaps they were painting lightly different pictures and getting away with it.

“There were some good lessons for us. We fired some good bullets, we just didn’t fire enough.”

“Playing France here in the opening game was pretty special but they were just a bit too good. We’ve got to find another pathway for us now.”

Captain Ardie Savea revealed that his side’s discipline let them down.

“It was a battle,” All Blacks stand-in captain Savea said.

“It was going back and forth, back and forth.

“I think in that last 20 [minutes], our discipline let us down and we weren’t clinical enough in our half and they punished us.

“We gave a few penalties away and they punished us.

“We never got scoreboard pressure and when time’s running out, you may try a little bit hard and it just didn’t go our way.

“We’ve got to regroup and keep going forward.”

There are certainly reasons for concern. The All Blacks conceded 12 penalties compared to France’s four.

While Will Jordan received a yellow card for foul play.

When asked about the high penalty count All Blacks boss Foster admitted the pressure got to his side.

“You have to give France some credit for that,” Foster said, adding: “Will [Jordan] was a bit clumsy with a couple of aerial things and the second one didn’t help us.

“The yellow card came at a bad time against a team who like to exploit the back-field.

“France were good enough to take advantage of that but our discipline was pretty good in the first half. When we had ball, we played with a lot of ambition, there was a lot of good stuff.

“It was just frustrating we couldn’t really strike in that second half.”

Regarding regular captain Sam Cane’s injury, Foster revealed they will continue to monitor the situation.

“He [Cane] was doing a bit of lifting of a jumper at a lineout. He brought them down and felt his back get strained. It was pretty stiff on Thursday and we had a look at him on Friday and decided to pull him.

“It has freed up and he is moving better than he was Thursday but we didn’t have clear information about how bad his back was.

“We will have a look at that on Saturday. He says he’s had it before but we will check it out properly. His back went into spasm around a disc, but it doesn’t look too serious at this stage.”

Meanwhile, Ethan Blackadder will join the All Blacks squad. The loose forward replaces wing Emoni Narawa, who has been ruled out of the tournament due to an injury.

Blackadder’s inclusion does not come as a surprise as the All Balcks’ loose forward depth has been put under loads of strain.

The All Blacks take on Namibia in Toulouse next.

*Additional source: @WorldRugby 

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