DECINES-CHARPIEU – New Zealand head coach Ian Foster lauded a “statement” win after his All Blacks trounced Italy 96-17 on Friday to reignite their Rugby World Cup bid.
The three-time champions were under pressure coming into this match, knowing that defeat would have seen them crashing out of the pool stage for the first time.
But with their backs against the wall, they put in a stunning 14-try demolition of their opponents.
The result meant that the All Blacks are second in Pool A on 10 points, level with the Italians but trailing leaders France by three points.
“Delighted. We wanted to make a statement,” said Foster.
“To come out against a team that we legitimately had concerns about, because they are a good team and had played some great rugby leading into this, and put them away like that was really pleasing.
“We knew the importance of the game and that this is what World Cups are about. We delivered, so I am pleased with that. It’s about building momentum at this World Cup and that was a marker we put down.”
With minnows Uruguay to come next, the All Blacks can almost start preparing for the quarter-finals, something Foster said other teams among the favourites cannot.
France could still fail to reach the last eight if they lose to Italy next week and Ireland are not guaranteed to go through to the knockouts despite having beaten reigning champions South Africa in Pool B.
“The great thing for us is that we had a pressure game tonight that we had to front up and play – there are other teams that have still got that coming up too,” said Foster.
“People talk about other teams already being in the quarter-finals but there are still ramifications and things to happen.”
And he insisted that despite scoring 25 tries in their last two matches against Italy and Namibia, New Zealand would not be taking Uruguay lightly next week.
“We will be better because we put ourselves under pressure for this one,” he said. “Uruguay have been a niggly team to play, so we have to respect that, but clearly we are where we want to be right now.”
Centre Jordie Barrett, whose sublime crossfield kick for wing Will Jordan set New Zealand’s stall out for the evening after just six minutes, agreed that there are still things to work on.
He said he was disappointed with the All Blacks’ start to the second half, when they conceded a try to Ange Capuozzo.
“We were good for the most parts, then a bit sloppy in a 10-minute period after half-time,” he said.
“As a team, we let them back in with poor discipline and we might get in trouble with that stuff. We did most things well tonight, but there are areas where we can get better.”
Foster also had praise for second row Sam Whitelock, who won a record-breaking 149th cap for the All Blacks.
“To stand alone at the top for appearances for this team is pretty special. He deserves it,” he said. “He’s been a warrior for a long, long time and continues to do that job.”
Italy’s Kiwi coach Kieran Crowley pointed to his team’s poor set-piece as one factor which contributed to the rout.
They lost six scrums and five line-outs during the match.
“It turned into a bit of a glorified training run from them,” he admitted.
“We won 33 per cent of our scrum and 50 per cent of our line-out. They put pressure on us, we gave away eight penalties because of that pressure in the first half and they beat us up at the breakdown.
“Give them credit, they were outstanding tonight with their carry and their clean-out work.
“We gave up those three tries in five minutes which really put us on the back foot and it was all gone from then.” AFP, REUTERS