Rugby World Cup: All Blacks centurion Mils Muliaina warns of Argentina upset in Paris semi-final

On the eve of their World Cup semi-final against Argentina, All Blacks great Mils Muliaina is nervous of an upset that could see New Zealand bundled out of the tournament before the final.

Muliaina should know. He was part of the infamous 2007 team toppled in the quarter-finals by France - the top-ranked team in the world for more than three years before and expected to claim their nation's second World Cup crown.

Four years later, Muliaina and many of his teammates - along with coach Graham Henry - returned to fulfill that destiny at Auckland's Eden Park, but in his current role as Sky Sport commentator, the ominous signs are all around him at Paris.

Mils Muliaina (right) - and Richie McCaw - know a thing or two about World Cup upsets.
Mils Muliaina (right) - and Richie McCaw - know a thing or two about World Cup upsets. Photo credit: Photosport/AM Show

"It's a Rugby World Cup, isn't it, and we've already seen the world No.1 and world No.2 out," he told AM. "I understand it was South Africa and us, but all bets are off, when it comes to a Rugby World Cup.

"It's once every four years and... we've often been on the backend of that. We've come in as hot favourites, and ended up leaving after a quarter-final or a semi, so you just never know."

This time, the All Blacks entered the tournament as comparative underdogs, but showed their competitive temperament by ending Ireland's 17-game winning streak at the final-eight stage.

Defending champions South Africa duly overturned hosts France, as the age-old rivals continued on a collision course in next week's final.

While New Zealand have dominated previous encounters against the Pumas, with 33 wins from 36 tests, Muliaina is reluctant to bestow outright favouritism on them.

"After beating the previous world No.1, you'd have to say the All Blacks possibly roll into this as the favourites, given how convincingly they beat the Pumas in Argentina earlier this year," he said. 

"The big part of the All Blacks now is to make sure they get to the level they were last week. They were on such a high, they had to come back down and prepare well for this week for an Argentinian side that haven't quite hit their straps yet.

"Last week was really inspirational in terms of their win against Wales, but they're not the Argentinians of old, where they have come in understanding their game and what that looks like.

"The All Blacks will understand that they want to play a physical battle, and guys up front like Montoya, Kremer and Lavanini have been massive, and they will be again. We all know how passionate the Argentinians are and the All Blacks will be up for it."

Muliaina considers the unwanted records conceded under coach Ian Foster - a series loss to Ireland, defeats by Argentina, record defeat by the Springboks, a first-ever World Cup pool loss to France - have served to make these All Blacks more resilient than previous editions.

"The big thing about the All Blacks - and particularly this team - is the adversity they've faced over the last 18 months," he said. "They seem well connected, they seem motivated, and they seem inspired by going out there and doing a really good job.

"I'm sure all us Kiwis will be right in behind them. I know it's nervewracking, but we're pretty excited at the same time, being here in Paris and watching the boys perform.

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