A day after a hot winter’s day in Christchurch saw Ian Foster lunch at a seaside restaurant and manage to hunt down three cheap vinyl records, the All Blacks manager named a team which perhaps reflects his sunnier temperament.
Admittedly, he is unlikely to have had the opportunity to reprise his role in the Garden City had the All Blacks not returned to beat South Africa at Ellis Park recently. The win is perhaps an indication of why he settled for the status quo for the test against Argentina at Orangetheory Stadium on Saturday.
Beauden Barrett is the lone absentee due to a neck injury sustained during a ruck cleanup late in practice Tuesday.
Barrett’s stiff neck – previously injured in his horrific crash against the Boks at the Mbombela stadium – is not considered serious, with Foster claiming the Blues star is a possibility for the second test against the Pumas in Hamilton a week Saturday.
“At the moment, I haven’t heard anything that he won’t be available next week,” Foster said Thursday.
“We’ll see what happens.”
Debutant Stephen Perofeta is on the reserves bench as a replacement for Barrett, with Foster hinting that Perofeta would have had a chance at the Waikato Stadium anyway.
It means Richie Mo’unga will have the opportunity to lead the attack again a fortnight after doing so well against the Boks in his first start since November last year.
Given Mo’unga’s form and the time and space he created for the sometimes dreaded punching weapons outside of him at Ellis Park, as well as Foster rewarding the team involved in the one of the most impressive tests of his reign, it’s hard to imagine him letting Mo’unga down. to the bench if Barrett had been available.
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Either way, it’s another chance for the Crusaders playmaker to impress and cement himself in a pivotal position that doesn’t seem quite settled yet. It’s also worth remembering that another win would be significant as the All Blacks are yet to win two Tests in a row this year.
“Very good,” Foster said of Mo’unga’s performance in the 35-23 victory. “I thought his control was good. There were a few areas where he wanted to improve his accuracy but overall he was confident and he gave us some of those moments of territory that we just talked about.”
He said Perofeta’s selection was a reward for his continued development after he was initially nominated for the Irish series.
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“He’s confident – he’s happy to speak in front of the group. But the main thing is he leads by learning on the park. He’s learning 10 and 15 so it’s a dual role to learn but he’s done it particularly well .”
Perofeta has impressed the Blues this year – particularly with his broken upfield run – and can be a late-game threat against a tiresome Pumas defence.
Foster said he expected Argentina to attack with more ambition and confidence than in the past. If so, he can play into the hands of an All Blacks side that always looks more dangerous on the block than attacking in the first phase.
This test will be the first in which assistant coach Joe Schmidt will be involved since his recent promotion after the toll of the South African trip. This review of a series of broken poor performances in Johannesburg led to Foster’s reprieve.
When Schmidt’s name is mentioned to players, all to one man mention his attention to detail. Schmidt was on the pitch in Auckland ahead of Ireland’s first Test due to Foster and others being knocked out by Covid. He then fell back into his role as coach before what appears in retrospect as an inevitable rise to power.
“Good, really good,” Foster said of his promoted assistant. “It was great to have him involved. It was a slow start and build strategy…it was great to see it fit in.
“He’s lining up to challenge me because all the coaches and managers are always questioning and challenging what we do.”
Foster added that new forwards coach Jason Ryan, who began his role in South Africa, has taken on a managerial role alongside Foster and Schmidt.
“That was always the intention, but it was one step at a time…” Foster said. “It’s really important that Joe and I have a strong striker picking voice in our squad, so it was a natural progression, really.”
It’s the first test in Christchurch since 2016, and Foster seems keen to make the most of it, hence his jaunt through the city a day early. Including Mo’unga, there are eight Crusaders in Matchday 23, a selection continuity that will be appreciated in these games.
Granted, Foster said he felt the love on his midweek day off.
“I had seafood chowder at the Governors Bay pub yesterday and they were very excited to see me, then I bought three second-hand vinyl records at Penny Lane on Colombo Street and [the owner] said I was the first All Black coach to visit. So two out of two.”
All Blacks v Argentina, Saturday 27 August, Christchurch, 7.45pm
All Blacks: 15. Jordie Barrett, 14. Will Jordan, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. David Havili, 11. Caleb Clarke, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Ardie Savea, 7. Sam Cane [C]6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Scott Barrett, 4. Sam Whitelock, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 2. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1. Ethan de Groot
Reservations: 16. Codie Taylor, 17. George Bower, 18. Fletcher Newell, 19. Tupou Vaa’i, 20. Akira Ioane, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Stephen Perofeta*, 23. Quinn Tupaea
Argentina: 15. Juan Cruz Mallía, 14. Emiliano Boffelli, 13. Matias Moroni, 12. Matias Orlando, 11. Lucio Cinti, 10. Santiago Carreras, 9. Gonzalo Bertranou, 8. Pablo Matera, 7. Marcos Kremer, 6. Juan Martín González Samso, 5. Tomás Lavanini, 4. Matías Alemanno, 3. Joel Sclavi, 2. Julian Montoya [C]1. Thomas Gallo
Reservations: 16. Santiago Socino, 17. Mayco Vivas, 18. Eduardo Bello, 19. Guido Petti, 20. Santiago Grondona, 21. Tomas Cubeli, 22. Tomas Albornoz, 23. Santiago Cordero