Rugby World Cup: All forgiven, as Mark Telea returns to All Blacks starting side for semi-final against Argentina

All has been forgiven for All Blacks winger Mark Telea, named to return to the starting XV for Saturday's (NZ time) Rugby World Cup semi-final against Argentina.

Last week, Telea, 26, was a shock omission from the matchday 23 to face Ireland at Paris, when it was revealed he had been dropped for breaching team protocols.

In his absence, Leicester Fainga'anuku did all he could to keep hold of the famed No.11 jersey, scoring the opening try and proving his worth on defence, as the All Blacks stunned Ireland 28-24 in the quarter-finals.

Mark Telea scores against France.
Mark Telea scores against France. Photo credit: Getty Images

Fast forward one week and Telea has been welcomed back with open arms. As one of three changes to the matchday 23, he will take his place in the back three, alongside Will Jordan and Beauden Barrett.

While a disciplinary incident could turn a coach away from picking certain players, Ian Foster is choosing to pick his side to face Argentina on merit, with Telea deemed the best option on the left wing. Already this tournament, he has scored three tries, including a double against hosts France in the opener.  

That form, coupled with a week out of action, has convinced Foster who his first-choice winger is for the biggest game of his coaching tenure.  

"That's the team we think is best for this week," said Foster. "Mark's done his time.

"He'd made a mistake, he accepted what was happening, but you don't linger in that space.

"He's been our form winger through this tournament. We've got a lot of faith in him and believe he's in a place to play this game."

Unfortunately, that leaves Fainga'anuku, 23, as the man to make way. He more than took his chance against Ireland, but competition within the first choice XV has left him without a spot, while Anton Lienert-Brown fills the backline utility role on the bench.

While pleased with Fainga'anuku's display, Foster insists the team to face Argentina needs to be picked on ability, not sentiment.

"I really enjoyed Leicester's game," he added. "He did a lot of what we asked him to do last week - he should be proud of that.  

"It's a tough selection. It's a chance for us to get Mark back on the park and I know he's excited."

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