The All Blacks coach ignited a discussion about playing styles after his side's 96-17 thrashing of Italy

All Blacks coach Ian Foster kickstarted a style debate by suggesting the rugby world will have to decide whether it prefers to watch free-flowing rugby or stop-start combative contests.

After their opening night defeat to hosts France, New Zealand brushed aside Namibia before going under the radar during their bye week, but returned to the forefront of everyone’s minds with a stunning 14-try 96-17 humbling of Italy in Lyon on Friday night.

Read more: All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad

Aaron Smith scored a hat-trick while Player of the Match and captain Ardie Savea grabbed two tries on the night veteran lock Sam Whitelock became the most-capped All Black of all time, surpassing his former team-mate Richie McCaw by winning his 149th cap off the bench.

In his post-match press conference, Foster was asked whether his team were ready for the quarter-finals after two landslide wins, and potentially another to follow against Uruguay.

Related: How to watch the Rugby World Cup wherever you are

Ian Foster style debate explained

He replied: “In rugby you have to deal with the challenges that you’ve got. The trouble is if you win with a big scoreline people believe there is no value in it. The value has been massive for us as we put ourselves under pressure the last 10 days for that performance.

“We knew we had to and we didn’t want to give Italy a chance. We respect them enough that we had to be in the house. What we’ve learned is that if we are really focused on preparation and we get it right and we figure out the challenge in front of us, then we can play good rugby.

“If you look at the South Africa-Ireland game, it was a different game of rugby. The ball was in play for 27 minutes throughout the whole game. It was a very stop-start game, very physical, very combative. You saw a different spectacle tonight and at some point the world has got to decide which game it would rather watch.”

In response to Foster’s comments, Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus wrote on X/Twitter: “Ian always a straight shooter and say it as it is! Have respect for him since he coached the Chiefs!!

“But I think 2 min more ball in play and a epic battle between Ireland and Boks is the game I would rather watch !! ( while saying that your boys were crisp and clinical )”

Andy Farrell’s side beat the Springboks 13-8 in Paris last weekend to put them on course to face the All Blacks in a quarter-final at the Stade de France but Foster insisted he is not bothered about who his side may face in the knockouts, prioritising getting there first.

Read more: Air Jordan – wing Will Jordan scores acrobatic first try v Italy

He added: “I have got no preference about who we play. Those questions early in the pool don’t mean a lot as there are a lot of things that can still happen. We don’t spend any time thinking about what might happen.

“I know that’s a boring answer but that’s the truth. What happens if Scotland go and play two great games and either Ireland or South Africa are not there?

“We’ll do our job, take it one week at a time and find out who it is. You just have to look at the draw and to know that the quarter-finals are going to be huge. We just want to get there. Then we’ll worry about who is there.”

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