Foster calls for fearless All Blacks display to avenge Pumas loss

·3-min read

All Blacks coach Ian Foster said Thursday that New Zealand will need to play without fear against Argentina in Hamilton on Saturday to avenge their shock defeat last weekend and prevent the humiliation of losing a fourth successive home Test.

The under-fire Foster surprised critics by naming the same starting players who lost 25-18 in Christchurch as the Pumas made history with their first victory over the All Blacks in New Zealand.

Argentina coach Michael Cheika made four changes to his side, who he still labelled as "underdogs", despite successive victories over Australia and New Zealand that took them top of the Rugby Championship table.

"For those that want blood, I guess we haven't given it have we?" Foster said, explaining he doesn't want his players to feel their places are constantly under threat after a four defeats in six Tests in 2022, including a home series loss to Ireland.

"If you play under fear, you restrict your options, you restrict your thinking and what actually happens is you don't get your game going," Foster said.

"We believe the best way to build confidence in those pressure moments is put the guys out there who have just been through it, have felt it."

Foster has overhauled his bench, recalling 298 caps worth of experience through hooker Dane Coles, lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Dalton Papali'i and fly-half Beauden Barrett.

Cheika dropped his lone Christchurch try-scorer, flanker Juan Martin Gonzalez, to the bench along with lock Matias Alemanno, wing Lucio Cinti and scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou.

Forwards Santiago Grondona and Matias Alemanno are recalled, along with experienced back Tomas Cubelli and Santiago Cordero.

- 'As underdog as you get' -

Cheika laughed off suggestions that the Pumas would start as favourites, with last week's historic result following a 48-17 dismantling of Australia in San Juan.

"Mate, we're in New Zealand, playing against New Zealand," he told reporters.

"I know that you guys like to manoeuvre the story around, but we're about as underdog as you get. You win once, and then no one expects you to win again."

"There's absolutely no benefit for any of us to think about anything like that," though he conceded that Ireland's successive wins in July "gives us some hope".

Foster said New Zealand's command of possession and territory, primarily off the dominance of their scrum, had made the historic defeat all the more difficult to accept.

In front after 50 minutes, Foster said his side repeatedly ran into Argentina's wall of defenders with a lack of attacking variety.

"It's an area where I think great All Blacks teams have always been great -- in that last 15 minutes -- backing themselves and doing the right thing," he said.

"We clearly got a bit flustered under a bit of pressure and it narrowed down some of our options.

"On the field we have to get better than that."

New Zealand (15-1): Jordie Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, David Havili, Caleb Clarke; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (capt), Shannon Frizell; Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock; Tyrel Lomax, Samisoni Taukei'aho, Ethan de Groot.

Replacements: Dane Coles, George Bower, Fletcher Newell, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali'i, Finlay Christie, Beauden Barrett, Quinn Tupaea.

Argentina (15-1): Juan Cruz Mallia; Emiliano Boffelli, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Santiago Cordero; Santiago Carreras, Tomas Cubelli; Pablo Matera, Marcos Kremer, Santiago Grondona; Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti; Joel Sclavi, Julian Montoya (capt), Thomas Gallo

Replacements: Santiago Socino, Mayco Vivas, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Gonzalo Bertranou, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Lucio Cinti.