'Train the brain': All Blacks test discipline before Pumas crunch

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New Zealand assistant coach John Plumtree.
New Zealand assistant coach John Plumtree.
Phil Walter/Getty Images

All Blacks players are being deliberately provoked during practice to improve their discipline ahead of Saturday's grudge match against Argentina, assistant coach John Plumtree revealed on Tuesday.

Plumtree said poor self-control was a major reason why the All Blacks posted back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2011 when they succumbed to Los Pumas on 14 November.

Head coach Ian Foster has found unusual ways to ensure there is no repeat during the return Tri Nations fixture in Newcastle on Saturday, Plumtree said.

"We've put a big focus on it during training, putting players under pressure," Plumtree told a conference call.

"Fozzie's been working really hard on coming up with some creative games where potentially the players might get a little bit upset with some of his decisions, particularly on refereeing."

He said the players had "come a long way" in containing their emotions on the pitch and helping one another remain calm in pressure situations.

The three-time world champions committed a combined 26 penalties in successive defeats to Australia and Argentina, gifting their opponents decisive points.

The South Americans are expected to adopt similar niggling tactics on Saturday.

Fullback Beauden Barrett said the players acknowledged the problem and were working to address it.

"It starts with discipline, it starts with the individual," he said.

"It's like a skill or physical training. We need to train the brain as well."

Barrett said the All Blacks were grateful they still have the chance to win the Tri Nations if they post a convincing win over Argentina on Saturday.

He said the there had been an edge at training and the New Zealanders were primed for Argentina after their last encounter.

"I don't think you can question our heart but you can probably question the missed opportunities and lack of taking them," he said.

"We want to finish strongly in this competition and finish our year on a high."

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