Mark Telea returns after protocol breach as All Blacks change two for Rugby World Cup semi-final

Colin Newboult

All Blacks wing Mark Telea celebrating a try during the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Mark Telea has returned to the All Blacks’ starting XV for their Rugby World Cup semi-final against Argentina on Friday.

The wing was dropped for their tense victory over Ireland last weekend for a ‘minor’ breach of team protocol, with Leicester Fainga’anuku coming in as his replacement.

Despite Fainga’anuku impressing in the Blues player’s absence, head coach Ian Foster has decided to bring Telea back into the XV.

Tried and tested backline

Fainga’anuku therefore drops out of the 23 completely in New Zealand’s only change to the starting backline.

Beauden Barrett and Will Jordan join Telea in the back three, while Rieko Ioane and Jordie Barrett are once again at centre.

After combining well throughout 2023, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga line up at half-back.

Up front, Foster has largely kept faith with the pack that impressed in the World Cup quarter-final triumph over Ireland.

They were particularly strong at the breakdown with Ardie Savea and Sam Cane leading the charge, and those two start alongside Shannon Frizell in the back-row.

The only alteration among the forward eight comes at lock as Sam Whitelock interestingly gets in ahead of Brodie Retallick to partner Scott Barrett in the engine room.

Retallick therefore takes his place on the bench, where he is joined by Samisoni Taukei’aho, who is preferred to Dane Coles as the impact hooker.

Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown are the other replacements.

“Rugby World Cup play-offs are a series of finals,” head coach Foster said. “We know that the intensity only increases as you progress through the knockout stages and we are preparing accordingly.

“We have received amazing support from our country and fans. The atmosphere at our games has been tremendous and we want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of that.

“The team is determined to give it everything in this special occasion against Argentina who are a quality team with a proven record in Rugby World Cup play-off games. We are very respectful of that.”

All Blacks side to face Argentina

New Zealand: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tamaiti Williams, 18 Fletcher Newell, 19 Brodie Retallick, 20 Dalton Papali’i, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Damian McKenzie, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Friday, October 20
Venue: Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Kick-off: 21:00 local (20:00 BST, 19:00 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Nic Berry (Australia), Karl Dickson (England)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)

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