NZL team announcement (v URU): head coach Foster, captain Cane, Vaa'i, Fainga'anuku

NZL team announcement (v URU): head coach Foster, captain Cane, Vaa'i, Fainga'anuku
Comments from New Zealand head coach Ian Foster, captain Sam Cane, second-row Tupou Vaa'i and winger Leicester Fainga'anuku at a media briefing on Tuesday after announcing their team to face Uruguay in their final Pool A game at OL Stadium on Thursday, 5 October.

Ian Foster, head coach

On how he is guarding against complacency after the performance versus Italy: 

"You need two things. One, you can't motivate a team falsely because it shows in performance. So, you've got to get real about it.

"We've got so much to achieve ourselves. That's a fact. We are not in a quarter-final yet, so we've got to make sure we do that. 

"We are playing against a team that basically had the same scoreline against France as what we did. And that's in the last month. I am not trying to talk them up falsely but they lost to France by the same scoreline we did. That deserves a lot of respect and if you watch that game, these guys, I love their attitude. I think they're a really passionate rugby team and if we're not in the house, then we are going to struggle. That's a fact we've got to deal with. 

"For us, we are at our best when we are on edge. Sometimes our opponent puts us on edge, sometimes the situation puts you on edge but at all times your own internal standards have to be the edge that really matters the most."

On getting the balance right of being alive to future challenges while focusing on the present:

"That's the challenge of World Cups. You've got to make sure that you prepare for the here and now, I guess with an eye to the future. You've got to get that balance right.

"But there's enough challenges in the here and now. Uruguay represent some pretty significant challenges in many areas of the game for us that perhaps we have to get better in for the future anyway. They are an ambitious team. We know we are going to have to be alive defensively because they are going to want to take opportunities when they can. We also know they are highly combative at the breakdown. They've basically got the Rugby World Cup's leading jackler in their team. 

"Rugby, in many ways, is still pretty simple. You've just got to get two or three of your big rocks right every week and then the other stuff adds on top of that."

On making nine changes to the match-day 23 who crushed Italy: 

"We've selected the team that we think is best for this game. It's obviously a must win for us and that's our number one focus. Where we've made a couple of tweaks is there's some guys we felt maybe didn't need a hit-out but can still be in really great shape because of that. 

"You see when you look at the team there is a lot of continuity in many aspects. Being able to bring the likes of Sam (Cane) in and Tyrel (Lomax) and Jordie (Barrett), keep their progress coming back (from injury)... Sam Whitelock coming back in. A lot of those changes have got us into a really strong position for this game."

On what drives his decisions when naming the match-day 23:

"A lot of history. Looking at how we believe guys perform in consecutive weeks, in consecutive tests. The load that they have been carrying. It's a slightly tighter turnaround for this. 

"Clearly, you are making decisions now to make sure that we are building the continuity and not taking the step back in the areas we feel we need to grow. 

"But we also have to make smart decisions because, let's face it, we want to do well on Thursday and then we want three more games. We want to make sure we've got the energy in the tank to do that."

On centre David Havili being the one player in the 33-man squad not available for selection: 

"David Havili's hammy is still a little bit niggly. So, we've pulled him out. He's training but we haven't considered him."

On naming Damian McKenzie, who has played a lot at fly-half, at full-back:

"Well, he's always been a 10-15 for us, so it's keeping that combination between our 10 and 15 going well. We were really pleased with Damian last week and we want to grow his influence in our team and we think this is a good opportunity for him to do that. And Beaudie (Barrett) can be that calm head coming off the bench if we end up moving Damian into 10 later on. 

"It's to keep growing the combinations we think are working well for us. It also means it's another continuity-type game for Will (Jordan). He's played the first game, missed the next one and another couple of games in a row will be really positive for him."

On what he wants to see from young scrum-half Cam Roigard: 

"I want to see him do what he is good at. He brings an edge to the running game, he's a threat and I want him to stick with that. 

"His left-foot kicking is a real asset for us. We haven't got a lot of left-footers in our inside backs, so that's a bonus. 

"One thing I do want him to do is to improve the accuracy of his pass. When he's been coming on, he's probably been rushing that aspect of his game a little bit. So this is a chance for him to settle in the game and get that right and show that that can be a massive strength for him as well."

On winger Leicester Fainga'anuku providing midfield cover: 

"Leicester is going to cover 12 and 13. Obviously, Davey (Havili) would have been in there, he's out. It's something that if he does well, it gives us a great option. 

"The question before was how settled are we in the 23, well he's got something to play for."

On what he wants to see from Ethan Blackadder when he gets his opportunity off the bench:

"I just want him to do his job for us. I want us to get through today's training injury-free because he does rip in very hard. He is a guy that goes 100mph in just about everything he does. Like everything, that is a strength and weakness. He's got to be smart about how he uses his energy."

On focusing on discipline given the number of cards dished out so far:

"Yes, every week. You've only got to watch World Cup games to know you have to talk about it. Look, there's been so many cards. It seems to be the way it is, hopefully that settles down a bit. We are really aware of the way the game is being played and officiated now. We know we've got to take responsibility for our technique as much as we can. 

"It's an area that we know has big ramifications if you get it wrong. It's not the focus, but it's high up on the list."

On loving this Rugby World Cup:

"We've loved our time in France. We knew it would be like this because they are rugby fans. You feel that growing and intensifying. It's been a wonderful country to have a World Cup in from a fan base and the interactions.

"I guess it's a great country to tour, so you get a lot of people touring around and they seem to fit us in between trips to Annecy and Switzerland and Italy and wherever else they go."

Sam Cane, captain and flanker 

On finally starting his first game of Rugby World Cup 2023: 

"I am very ready. I am very excited. It's been a little bit of a road bump for me personally, this start of the World Cup. I spoke the day after the (Italy) game about how it had been a little bit frustrating but I'm really excited and grateful to be back. 

"I'm looking forward to training this arvo to test things out under a bit of heat, a bit of pressure from the boys. And then (I'll) feel a lot more confident heading into the game."

On the state of the squad as the team move towards the quarter-finals: 

"The squad, as a whole, is in good shape physically. I feel like we've made good progress in some key areas of our game following the Bordeaux week (week off) when we got to put in a lot of work and it was pleasing to see those shine through in the game against Italy. The challenge for us is to back that up and keep strengthening those key areas and put out another good performance which could put us in a good spot going forwards."

On looking forward to seeing replacement Ethan Blackadder make his Rugby World Cup debut: 

"His charisma and personality rubs off and that's the way he plays footy. He's been awesome to have back in the environment. He ripped into training last week, once the trainers took the shackles loose after all his travel. 

"He's physical, he rips in and he throws his body around and he's got a big engine."

Tupou Vaa'i, second row

On playing alongside Sam Whitelock, who will be become the first All Black to win 150 caps: 

"It's definitely special. He is definitely a special man of this team. The way he upholds himself and the way he leads, he is just a genuine guy. He hates talking about him, he makes it all about the team. Special for him and his family. The first guy to ever play 150 games for the All Blacks is special. I've got so much respect for him and heaps of love. 

"You go from battling against each other to rubbing shoulders. He's definitely taught me a lot, especially around the position of being a lock and just the way he sees the game. Definitely around the lineouts. 
"I am just grateful he's on our side and I'm not playing against him."

On his partner making the most of her Rugby World Cup:

"My partner is here. She's currently in Switzerland at the moment, enjoying a bit of sunshine there now. She's living the life."
On he and friend Leicester Fainga'anuku being prepared for anything:
"Yeah, I don't really like this guy next to me. I am just joking. He's definitely annoying. Always comes knocking on my door.
"We are currently watching (The) Walking Dead at the moment and all our talk has just been about what weapon would you use if there were zombies and that sort of stuff. Was it a hammer, Leicester? 
"We've been great friends. We've come through the Under-20s together. We've stayed connected over the last few years and this guy has been playing unreal footy. You can see why he's in this team. He just likes to get busy on the field and he just backs himself."

Leicester Fainga'anuku, winger
On the responsibility of covering the midfield as well as playing on the wing:
"It's a position that I've constantly been building through Super Rugby and obviously here, now an opportunity at international level. For me, it's been consistently covering that week-in, week-out, make sure I've got the toolbox to be able to adjust my game when I do get the opportunity to slip in. For me, I am happy in any spot in the backline."
On only arguing with Vaa'i when it comes to tea time: 

"We've been really close friends since we were young. Getting an opportunity to be able to do what we love at the top stage is amazing for both of us. It's awesome to see us get an opportunity to get out and do what we love once again. We see eye to eye most of the time, but the only time we do argue is when we are deciding who is getting the bickies (biscuits) for the tea and who is making the tea. 

'We've definitely come a long way."

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