All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he was confident the 27-13 loss to France in their opening match at the World Cup on Friday did not necessarily bring an end to their hopes of a fourth title.
Hot on the heels of a record test loss to world champions South Africa in their final warm-up, the All Blacks lost a perfect record in World Cup pool phase matches that went back to the first tournament in 1987.
“Stats are stats and I understand all that, but in the past we’ve won all the pool games but not necessarily won the tournament, the goal is to win a tournament,” Foster told reporters.
“We were just denied opportunities to really attack them in their half. There are some aspects we’re going to have to rebuild a bit. We need to be a bit better. Some good lessons.
“But we’re not down in the sheds, we’re just frustrated that we lost a game. We fired some good bullets at them, we just didn’t fire enough.”
While Foster was pleased with some aspects of the game, he pinpointed scrum penalties, players getting isolated and some wasted opportunities at the end of the first half when they had the French on the ropes as areas that needed improvement.
Foster was also disappointed with New Zealand’s discipline in the second half, when winger Will Jordan was yellow carded and then gave away another penalty for dangerous challenges in the air.
The All Blacks suffered a blow when Sam Cane was withdrawn from the match just before kickoff with a back injury sustained in training on Thursday, but Foster did not think his captain would be sidelined for long.
“It’s just a back strain, the back’s gone into a little bit of spasm around a disk, and we’ve just got to make sure it settles down before we push it,” he said.
“It doesn’t look too serious at this stage.”
That said, Foster suggested that the squad replacement for winger Emoni Narawa, who was ruled out of the tournament with a back injury of his own on Thursday, would probably be a loose forward.
The All Blacks play Namibia in Toulouse next Friday in their next Pool A match and Ardie Savea, who took on the captaincy in Cane’s absence, was taking some encouragement from South Africa’s last World Cup campaign.
“South Africa lost in 2019 the first game against us and went on to win the competition,” he said.
“We are obviously frustrated we lost tonight. We lost the battle but there’s still the war to be won. To win that we need to win the next three, and the way you do that is focus on the next one.
“France squeezed us and we weren’t good enough in certain moments of the game. We need to rectify that and move forward.”