Rugby World Cup 2019: All Blacks 'hurt' by claims of intentional targeting

All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has been swift to rubbish claims from across the Tasman that Scott Barrett's red-card offence was part of a deliberate ploy to target Wallabies captain Michael Hooper.

On Tuesday, former Australia coach Rod Kafer identified both Barrett's hit and Ardie Savea's penalised roughhousing of Hooper as "illegal acts" designed to "unsettle" Hooper.

Foster adopted an incredulous tone as he processed Kafer's comments, before unequivocally dismissing them as completely and utterly false and unfounded.

"The answer is no, it wasn't," said Foster. "Rod's a very smart man - I'm a little bit surprised that he said it.

"People can say whatever they like, it doesn't change the truth that we didn't. I'm sure that Rod will sit down one night and have a cup of tea, and have a think that it wasn't quite the truth after all."

All Blacks veteran Sam Whitelock re-iterated his coach's thoughts, adding he was "hurt" by Kafer's accusation.

"That's his opinion," said Whitelock. "But I've never been involved in talking about or setting anything up like that. 

"Obviously, I'm a little bit hurt hearing someone say that, but that's his opinion and he's entitled to that."

The allegations add further spice to the return test at Eden Park on Saturday, where the build-up has been dominated by almost everything, but the rugby itself.

On Monday, All Blacks flanker Sam Cane highlighted the Wallabies' repeated use of a neck roll at the breakdown during their 47-26 win in Perth - a highly dangerous and illegal tactic that involves removing an opposition player by grabbing his neck and head area, and twisting him away from the ball.

Several alleged neck rolls went unpunished by referee Jerome Garces, despite World Rugby's rules dictating that the act warrants - at minimum - a yellow card. 

Foster was reluctant to add any more fuel to that fire, insisting there'd be no added scrutiny of referee Jaco Peyper this weekend.

"It's something we don't like and we've got to look at what we can control," Foster said. "I'm just focusing on this week. 

"There's no point in us highlighting anything else. We've been found guilty of something and we'll just take our medicine on the chin."

That verdict relates to Barrett's three-week ban for his shoulder charge on Hooper, which was confirmed on Tuesday morning.

Foster reacted philosophically to the punishment, focusing on its impact on Barrett, who's trying to work his way back to match fitness, after a finger injury sidelined him for the opening Rugby Championship tests against Argentina and South Africa

"It is what it is… we try to take a bit of a matter-of-fact approach to these things. It's still disappointing for Scott, but we now have an endpoint and a startpoint for the next plan.

"It impacts on his own preparation time and he's already had a bit of time off, so it just means we've got a bit of work to do there."

Foster confirmed that no extra cover would be brought into the squad at lock, suggesting Patrick Tuipulotu would start in Barrett's absence, with Jackson Hemopo the likely back-up off the bench.


Join us for live updates of the Bledisloe Cup decider on Saturday night from 7:30.