Jane forgiven for drinking binge as Blacks move on

A STONY-FACED Graham Henry drew a line under reports All Blacks had been drinking in the build-up to yesterday’s World Cup quarter-final, saying he had “dealt with it”.

Following New Zealand’s 33-10 victory over Argentina to set up a semi-final clash with Australia, the coach was asked about a report in The New Zealand Herald which said Cory Jane had been on a “drinking binge” less than 72 hours before the match.

“Oh, I’ve dealt with that and I’ve moved on,” Henry told a press conference, before leaving a silence hanging in the air.

Captain Richie McCaw was then quizzed about whether or not senior members of the squad were expected to abstain from drinking for the good of the team.

“I think if we’re realistic about putting everything we can into winning this tournament, it is about making good decisions,” he said, side-stepping the direct question. “And we probably had an incident that was not a very good decision but we’ve dealt with that and the guys are pretty committed about doing everything they can to win the thing. That’s the way it has been all the way through and that’s the way it will continue.”

Jane was open about what had happened, telling reporters after the match: “It was a stupid choice. However, it was important for me to play well today and I feel I did.”

However, Henry indicated Jane had been forgiven. “I think he is a proud All Black and he wanted to perform,” he said of Jane’s contribution to the victory over Argentina.

“He probably didn’t make a good decision during the week — he definitely didn’t make a good decision during the week — and he wanted to get right back, and I thought he was outstanding out there.”

Without inspirational fly-half Dan Carter, who is out of the tournament with a groin injury, the All Blacks appeared nervous and took a 12-7 half-time lead courtesy of four Piri Weepu penalties, with Argentina responding with Julio Farias’ converted try.

It took the All Blacks until the 68th minute to score a try themselves, through number eight Kieran Read, the Pumas surviving 10 minutes with 14 men following scrum-half Nicolas Vergallo’s sin-binning.

Weepu kicked three more penalties in the second half to take his points total to 21, while Marcelo Bosch replied with a long-range penalty for the Pumas, who were worn down in the final 10 minutes.

Brad Thorn crossed for a try on the right wing and Aaron Cruden kicked the conversion to put a gloss on the scoreline the All Blacks scarcely deserved as they booked a semi-final against the Wallabies.

Argentina finished third in the 2007 tournament, but the World Cup careers of the likes of Mario Ledesma, Rodrigo Roncero and Felipe Contepomi are now at an end.

The All Blacks, meanwhile, have plenty of work to do to end the host nation’s 24-year wait for World Cup glory, beginning against Australia next Sunday. Argentina disrupted their rhythm throughout and they must find a fly-half to orchestrate the back line in Carter’s absence and hand the likes of Ma’a Nonu and Sonny Bill Williams ball.

The fact Weepu’s boot was decisive will be a concern for Henry, while injuries are also beginning to take their toll.

Mils Muliaina’s 100th Test appearance lasted only 40 minutes as he was replaced by Isaia Toeava at half time, while captain Richie McCaw’s ongoing foot injury meant he was short of his indomitable best.

NEW ZEALAND: M Muliaina, C Jane, C Smith, M Nonu, S Williams, C Slade, P Weepu; T Woodcock, K Mealamu, O Franks, B Thorn, S Whitelock, J Kaino, R McCaw, K Read.

Replacements: I Toeava for Muliaina (40), A Cruden for Slade (33), A Hore for Mealamu (65), A Williams for Whitelock (62).

ARGENTINA: M Rodriguez, G Camacho, M Bosch, F Contepomi, H Agulla, S Fernandez, N Vergallo, R Roncero, M Ledesma, J Figallo, M Carizza, P Albacete, J Farias Cabello, JM Leguizamon, L Senatore.

Replacements: J Imhoff for Agulla (50), A Lalanne for Vergallo (49), M Ayerza for Roncero (39), A Creevy for Ledesma (70), M Scelzo for Figallo (59), A Campos for Carizza (62).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

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