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Running game not working for All Blacks anymore

REACTION: Struggling New Zealand must defy the ‘All Black DNA’ of all-out attack and play a more conservative game, coach Ian Foster declared Sunday.


Foster said the team can no longer rely on a ball-in-hand style.

Saturday’s 18-25 Rugby Championship loss to a belligerent Argentina in Christchurch was the All Blacks’ sixth defeat in eight Tests and a historic first win on New Zealand soil for the Pumas.

It came just 10 days after New Zealand Rugby’s board unanimously voted to retain the under-fire Foster as coach until the end of the 2023 World Cup.

Foster said it was apparent that under the current rules teams had become adept at shutting down an expansive approach, contributing to New Zealand’s slide.

The Pumas won despite playing with less than 40 percent possession and territory, content to slow down New Zealand’s ruck ball and erect a defensive wall that made 195 tackles – more than double that of the home side.

For all their opportunities, New Zealand crossed just twice while Argentina wing Emiliano Boffelli slotted six penalties and converted his team’s try.


“We’ve done a lot of research on games we’ve lost over the last 10 years and there’s a similar pattern that we like to hold on to the ball and try to run our way out of trouble,” Foster told journalists on Sunday.

“Argentina stayed in the game and we sort of stuck to an All Blacks DNA, we tried to play, and carry our way through a really strong defensive line. We need to look at our response to teams that want to stifle us.”

New Zealand has been ranked the world’s number one side for much of the last 20 years, mainly due to an expansive game, instinctive try-scoring and a willingness to keep the ball alive.

Foster said it will be difficult for players to change lifelong habits.

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‘Not easy to fix’

“We don’t want to. We want to play a game that suits us but … we’ve got to be more respectful of the opposition,” he said.


“It’s clearly not that easy to fix, it’s natural that you want to go there [to a running game] under pressure but we’ve got to balance that with a little more wisdom.”

Foster confirmed he had spoken to New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Mark Robinson after the latest defeat and anticipated another week of heated public scrutiny before Saturday’s second Test against Argentina in Hamilton.

“Of course, that’s part of my job,” Foster said.

“We just need as much support as we can get now because it’s hurting. If people want to get angry, that’s their choice but now’s the time to get behind this team.

“It’s frustrating I’m sure for the fans and it’s frustrating for us but we have got a lot of faith that some of the things we’re building are paying dividends.”

New Zealand could be bolstered by the return to fitness of up to four experienced players next week.

Lock Brodie Retallick and props Nepo Laulala and Ofa Tu’ungafasi all played for provincial teams over the weekend and will be assessed when they rejoin the squad on Monday

The influential Retallick had not played since suffering a fractured cheekbone in the third Test loss to Ireland six weeks ago.

It is also hoped flyhalf Beauden Barrett can shake off the neck problem that ruled him out of the Christchurch Test.

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