Rugby World Cup: Ian Foster refuses to panic as All Blacks claim more unwanted history in defeat to France

The All Blacks may be bruised, they may be defeated - but coach Ian Foster says they are not broken after a history making defeat to France in the Rugby World Cup opener.   

On Saturday morning, Foster added another unwanted record to his CV as head coach of the All Blacks, with the 27-13 loss being New Zealand's first defeat in the pool stage of a Rugby World Cup.   

Despite starting each half as the stronger of the two sides - thanks largely to a double from winger Mark Telea - France's quality ultimately told.   

From being in the contest at 16-13 in the second half, the All Blacks' bench didn't provide the impact of yesteryear, as the hosts pulled away to open their own tournament in style. 


Scott Barrett reacts to defeat against France.
Scott Barrett reacts to defeat against France. Photo credit: Reuters

Now, the All Blacks have no room to breathe.    

One more defeat will all but condemn New Zealand to a first pool stage exit, needing three wins out of three against Namibia, Italy and Uruguay.   

For Foster, who will sign off as All Blacks coach regardless of the result at this World Cup, alarm bells are yet to be rung.    

"I don't think we have to rebuild," said Foster. "Stats are stats, I understand all that.   

"But, in the past, we've won all our pool games and not necessarily won a tournament. The goal is to win the tournament.   

"Let's be frank, I mean, this game was always massive, wasn't it? We know how strong France are, we wanted to go and get excited about playing.   

"I think you saw that ambition in us.   

"Whenever we had an opportunity to play, I thought we were pretty efficient at taking it. But we were just denied opportunities to really attack them in their half."   

Discipline, though, remains the biggest worry for the All Blacks.   

As it was against South Africa at Twickehnham, the penalty count proved to be the All Blacks' worst enemy, as repeat infringement and dominance from France denied Foster's men the chance to build significant pressure. 


Dalton Papali'i against France.
Dalton Papali'i against France. Photo credit: Getty Images

And, with two defeats on the bounce now giving the rest of the world a blueprint on how to beat the All Blacks, Foster concedes it can't go on like this.    

"We've got to get better," he continued.   

"It was a little bit frustrating some of the pictures that we painted at scrum time for the ref, when perhaps they were painting a slightly different picture and getting away with it.   

"We've got to be smarter at that.   

"[There were] some good lessons. But we're not down in the shed, we're frustrated that we lost the game.   

"We fired some good bullets and then we just didn't fire enough."   

History, though, shows a loss might not be the worst thing.   

Four years ago, South Africa lost their opening match - fittingly against the All Blacks - on their way to a record-equalling third Webb Ellis Cup.   

For captain Ardie Savea, who led the side after Sam Cane was withdrawn late by a back injury, that example serves as exactly what's possible for a team needing to rebound.   

"South Africa lost in 2019, against us and went on to win the competition," said Savea. "So, for us we're obviously frustrated we lost tonight.   

"We lost the battle but there's still a war to be won. To win that you got to win the next three [games]. "I think it's important to stay close and stay tight. I think tonight it's OK for the boys to feel the hurt and feel the loss. 

"It's up to us as leaders and as a group to be able to bring the boys together. We wanted to win tonight, but we didn't. We've got to shift our focus to what's next and, you know, that's regrouping the boys.   

"[That's] looking at things in our game that we did well and the things that kind of let us down, and how we can turn those into positive opportunities for us.   

"It's really important for us to regroup, reset and, you know, go about as normal with our mahi."   

Join Newshub for live updates of the All Blacks v Namibia from 7am next Saturday