Sports

Lomax worry for All Blacks as ‘monster game’ looms


Tyrel Lomax’s return to action was cut short on Thursday as New Zealand’s top tighthead prop suffered another injury in a 73-0 thrashing of Uruguay, although the three-time champions were confident he would be fit for the quarterfinals.

Lomax came back for the All Blacks’ win over Italy following a month-long absence after sustaining a freak knee cut which needed 30 stitches in the 35-7 warm-up defeat by South Africa.

The Italy game, and Thursday’s clash with Uruguay, were meant to get him back into top shape for the quarterfinals, where the New Zealanders will face one of the Pool B heavyweights.

“It looks like a small strain, we won’t know for another 24 hours, but he was looking okay,” coach Ian Foster told reporters.

It was an otherwise routine night for the All Blacks after they broke Uruguay’s early resilience, having had to wait 20 minutes to get onto the scoreboard.

Lomax

Damian McKenzie kicks a conversion for the All Blacks in their World Cup Pool A game against Uruguay at Parc Olympique in Lyon on 5 October 2023. (Photo: David Rogers / Getty Images)

“It was a really enjoyable game, pretty free-flowing. It took us a long time to break down Uruguay, to be honest, they defended so well,” man of the match Damian McKenzie said.

“But we managed to put some points on the board so I’m so proud of the lads. We’ve got to where we want to be, now we want to get better and move on to the quarters. I’m really excited for the week to come.”

New Zealand will face Ireland, South Africa or Scotland for a place in the last four.

They are likely to finish second in Pool A and expected to take on top-ranked Ireland.

“I think we can work on the assumption we will finish second,” Foster said.

“The thing about the draw is that, first or second, we kind of know when we got the draw, we knew it’s gonna be a monster game.”

I think the way in which they give their lives for the shirt, for the game and for the team, that is what I will take away from this World Cup.

The top four teams in the world – Ireland, France, South Africa and New Zealand – are in the same half of the World Cup draw.

“We know it’s going to be a big step-up coming next weekend,” said Foster, after his team ran in 36 tries in the three group games following their initial loss to hosts France.

Andres Vilaseca of Uruguay during the warm-up before their World Cup clash with New Zealand at Parc Olympique in Lyon on 5 October 2023. (Photo: Cameron Spencer / Getty Images)

‘Been amazing’

It was not how Uruguay wanted to end their Rugby World Cup experience but they leave with memories of impressive performances and their spirit unbroken.

They began their campaign brilliantly, giving France’s second string a real scare before losing 27-12, and were similarly competitive in a 38-17 loss to Italy.

The game they – and their opponents – described as their World Cup final was against Namibia and it was a brilliant match, which they won 36-26, scoring four tries along the way.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Rugby World Cup 2023

A crowd of almost 50,000 turned out to watch it, a figure highlighted by tournament organisers as an example of how the neutrals have turned out in force even for a game involving two minor nations.

Uruguay started well against New Zealand, frustrating their illustrious rivals as they sought to continue their run of scoring at least two tries in every game in the tournament.

The dam broke after 20 minutes and the All Blacks took total command, running in 11 tries, yet Uruguay never stopped tackling and never stopped taking the ball up hard when they had it, even as they failed to score a point for the first time in 19 Rugby World Cup matches.

“I am very proud of the players and the staff,” said coach Esteban Meneses. “New Zealand are the best team in the world and we played well in the first 20 minutes.

“I love the passion of the players, it’s incredible. They play with their heart. They are very good players and very good people. I love them. I think the way in which they give their lives for the shirt, for the game and for the team, that is what I will take away from this World Cup.”

Andres Vilaseca of Uruguay is tackled by Yoram Moefana of France at RWC 2023 at Stade Pierre Mauroy in Lille on 14 September 2023. (Photo: Warren Little / Getty Images)

Captain Andres Vilaseca was similarly upbeat.

“Today we were against the best team in the world and sometimes you just have to keep pushing and try your best,” he said. “Fatigue, both physical and mental, started to play a part, but we can be very proud of ourselves.

“I think we had an amazing World Cup. Playing France, Italy, Namibia – we won – and now New Zealand, playing the best team in the world. It’s about learning and trying to give our best and trying to grow the sport in Uruguay. It has been amazing.”

Like just about every other coach of a tier-two team, Meneses signed off with the now familiar, but destined to be ignored, plea:

“What we need to continue to progress and grow is to be able to have more matches against Tier 1 teams.” Reuters/DM

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