Cane warns All Blacks not to turn grumpiness into retaliation

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FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - June Internationals - New Zealand vs France

SYDNEY (Reuters) - New Zealand captain Sam Cane has sensed an edge and some "grumpiness" in his side as they prepared for their Tri-Nations clash with Argentina but echoed coach Ian Foster's warning not to let emotions spill over in Newcastle on Saturday.

The All Blacks' discipline has let them down across the Tri-Nations, leading to unnecessary penalties or having referees reverse penalty decisions when players retaliated for what they considered off-the-ball tactics.

Cane's side have lost their last two matches in the competition, including a historic first defeat by the Pumas, and are seeking to avoid becoming the first All Blacks side since 1998 to lose three successive tests.

"There has been a bit of edge, almost grumpiness throughout the week," Cane told reporters on Friday. "Guys from the leadership group have been making sure things are spot on and not accepting things that are not.

"Everyone in the squad is hurting. There are a lot of us trying to put some pride back in the All Blacks jersey."

Foster told reporters on Thursday that he felt much of the Tri-Nations and earlier Bledisloe Cup matches against Australia had been marred by niggly behaviour designed to provoke a reaction from opposing players.

Conversations he had with referees, however, suggested that World Rugby was clamping down on retaliation.

"The problem with that strategy is that it keeps encouraging people for little cheap shots to try and provoke you," Foster said.

"If it does we just have to make sure our response is to live within the bounds that the law allows us."

Cane added that it was perplexing referees would penalise the retaliation rather than what had caused it, but said his team would keep their emotions in check against a Pumas side who could be extra motivated following the death of former Argentina soccer captain Diego Maradona.

"Knowing the Argentinian people, from my limited experience I am sure he (Maradona) was viewed as a god-like figure," Cane said. "I'm sure that will be a big driving factor for them."

(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Ed Osmond)