The All Blacks’ preparations for Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Ireland have been hit by disciplinary trouble, with Mark Telea dropped for breaching team protocol.
New Zealand’s head coach, Ian Foster, said it was “nothing major” as he announced his matchday 23, while refusing to expand on why the wing was omitted for the knockout tie against the world No 1 side at Stade de France.
“He breached the protocol, nothing major, but enough to keep him out of selection for this week,” Foster said on Thursday. “I still love him, he trained well, it happens. For us it’s pretty clean-cut … We’ve dealt with it as a team and moved on.”
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Foster has recalled several big hitters for the eagerly-awaited encounter in Paris, with his players intent on atoning for the shock semi-final defeat by England in Japan four years ago.
The scrum-half Aaron Smith, back-rower Ardie Savea, full-back Beauden Barrett and lock Scott Barrett return to the starting XV following last Thursday’s 73-0 victory against Uruguay. Sam Cane captains the side from openside flanker alongside Shannon Frizell at No 6, with Savea at No 8.
Ethan de Groot returns from suspension at loosehead prop alongside hooker Codie Taylor and tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax, with Brodie Retallick in the second row and Sam Whitelock on the bench. Richie Mo’unga is at fly-half, Jordie Barrett and Rieko Ioane are in midfield, with Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan on the wings.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Mo’unga said of Ireland’s No 1 status. “They’re the best team in the world. It’s obviously not what I want to be saying in front of you all today, but those are the facts. The beauty is we have the opportunity on Saturday to play them. That’s the exciting thing about this week, there are no more lives and no more chances.”
Ireland have built momentum recently at Stade de France, with memorable pool-stage wins coming against South Africa and Scotland, but the captain, Cane, believes the atmosphere will also benefit New Zealand.
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“Part of the game plan is to start well, and if we’re able to do that, it should have an effect in keeping the crowd a bit quiet,” Cane said. “One of the great things about playing in big stadiums – in massive games like this – is the atmosphere and the energy that’s in the crowd. We’ll be feeding off it either way.”