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‘Taking steps in the right direction’: All Blacks continue to build ahead of RWC

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Daniel Jayo/Getty Images)

This time last year, the All Blacks were a team under pressure. While there’s always an element of expectation hanging over this side, the level of criticism that they received was something else.

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Following a disastrous series loss to Ireland in New Zealand, and defeats to both South Africa and Argentina during The Rugby Championship, the All Blacks came under fire.

But, eventually, things took a turn in the right direction.

The All Blacks dominated Los Pumas in Hamilton, and survived a scare against Australia in Melbourne. New Zealand went on eight-Test unbeaten run to finish their campaign.

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But as the old adage goes, a week is a long time in rugby. So, with the All Blacks playing their first Test since the Autumn Nations Series this weekend, the time away has felt like an eternity.

But the All Blacks were practically flawless to open their 2023 season.

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The New Zealanders recorded an emphatic 41-12 win over Argentina in Mendoza, and it’s a result that left coach Ian Foster “quite happy.”

“We’ve grown but let’s face it, it’s a new year, it’s game one. Really pleased with our start against a team that we have a lot of respect for and deservedly so,” Foster told reporters in Mendoza.

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“We’ll take it. We’ve got to prove that we are still growing from here.

“That’s the beauty of Test match rugby, isn’t it? Each week is a different challenge but overall I think we’re taking steps in the right direction.”

Playing in Mendoza, the All Blacks overcame a shaky start as they took control of their Rugby Championship opener.

Damian McKenzie had a kicked charged down by Pablo Matera after about 20 seconds and this nearly led to a try, but once they settled, the All Blacks went on a 31 -point blitz in the opening half.

“First Test, you’re always a little bit nervous. I think I said before the game there was a bit of a nervous excitement about where you’re at,” Foster said.

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“That applies to both teams. They’ve had their challenges.

“For us to go out there and play, particularly with tempo and pace and intensity in that first half was really critical for us, and I thought we did it really, really well. I thought it took the game away from them.

“I really liked our efficiency in that part.”

While Los Pumas fought valiantly in the second term, the visitors never looked like surrendering their lead.

But with next weekend’s clash with fierce rivals South Africa just around the corner, the All Blacks can still get better – and they may very well need to.

“We lost the second half in the end, we made a lot of tackles in the second half.

“We probably weren’t as efficient with some of our opportunities and we probably couldn’t put them under sustained pressure.

“I think that’s a little bit from us and probably a lot from them.

“Overall I think there’s some real pleasing stuff there and in many ways having to have a strong defensive effort in that Test, I think, will bode well for us going forward.”

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Comments

2 Comments
L
Lani 380 days ago

This surprised me. AB’s are traditionally slow starters and to have their first game in Argentina I was a little worried. It’s a really good start but big test comes next week. I’m looking for consistency.

P
Pecos 380 days ago

They beat Los Pumas 53-3 last time they played so technically this is a backward step. Also, beating a team we're always expected to beat is a small step indeed & the way some pundits & media are overhyping this win, shows just how far our expectations have dived under Foster. Bring on the Boks.

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