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‘Hurt’ All Blacks hungry to bounce back from France defeat

By Finn Morton
The New Zealand team look on after Melvyn Jaminet of France celebrates scoring his team's second try during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between France and New Zealand at Stade de France on September 08, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

The All Blacks are hurting after losing to France in last week’s Rugby World Cup opener, and they’re hungry for revenge ahead of a pool clash with Namibia in Toulouse.

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When the full-time siren sounded at Stade de France, the All Blacks and their fans dropped their heads. They’d just lost a Rugby World Cup pool game for the first time ever.

New Zealand were blown off the park by a clinical Les Bleus outfit who, led by goal-kicking ace Thomas Ramos, scored 18 unanswered points in just over 25 minutes.

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But the All Blacks must find a way to bounce back, there’s simply no other option – their World Cup dream depends on it. They’ll finish pool play with must-win Tests against Namibia, Italy and Uruguay.

Two days out from their clash with Namibia, wing Caleb Clarke repeated a sentence that his father Eroni – who also played rugby for New Zealand – “always said” about a struggling All Blacks side.

“Definitely. A lot of us are hurt. It was a good training week so not to get what we wanted dampened the spirits,” Clarke told reports on Wednesday.

“My dad always said, ‘a hurt All Blacks team is a dangerous All Blacks team’. This week everyone has been on edge and training has gone really well.

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“I think everyone is excited for the challenge ahead this week.”

It’s often said that playing for New Zealand “demands everything” of those deemed fit enough to wear the coveted black jersey in the Test arena.

The men and women who represented the rugby-mad nation on the international stage are looked to almost as Gods, and that creates a sense of pressure, expectation and scrutiny.

That’s why the alarm bells started to ring after losing to France.

The All Blacks have been left in unfamiliar territory. They’d never lost a pool game before, and that presents its own challenges.

Namibia, along with the matches against Italy and Uruguay, is now a must-win Test. There are no second chances.

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The All Blacks have approached the clash with Namibia with both respect and confidence. Coach Ian Foster has selected a star-studded side to take on the African nation, which includes an electric backline.

Bolstered by an exciting new-look halves duo of Cam Roigard and Damian McKenzie, Clarke will line up on the right wing while Leicester Fainga’anuku takes his place on the left.

“It doesn’t really matter who you put out in the 23. The black jersey we’re blessed to wear demands everything and (it’s) something we pride ourselves on.

“We want to win games to get ourselves a playoff spot and give us the best shot of winning this World Cup. The competition is awesome – to be able to train week-in, week-out with the best talent in New Zealand.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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