Rugby World Cup: All Blacks embracing scars of 2019 exit as fuel for Argentina semi-final

The All Blacks have largely stuck to their guns for Saturday's (NZ time) Rugby World Cup semi-final showdown with Argentina, with just three changes to the side who dominated Ireland last week.  

After being dropped for disciplinary reasons, Mark Telea's return to the starting line-up is perhaps Ian Foster's biggest call, but the NZ coach has made it clear he isn't prepared to settle for anything less, as his side look to bury the demons of 2019.  

The Paris sun might've made way for driving rain, but while the weather has shown no signs of improving, the All Blacks are adamant they must.  

Ardie Savea comforts Sevu Reece after the All Blacks' 2019 semi-final loss.
Ardie Savea comforts Sevu Reece after the All Blacks' 2019 semi-final loss. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We're at crunchtime in a tournament now, where what we delivered last week may not be good enough this week," said captain Sam Cane. 

To ensure that doesn't happen, Foster has gone back to his strike weapons. Telea is back into the starting side, after being dropped from their quarter-final clash for breaching team protocol.  

"He's been our form winger during this tournament for us, and we've got a lot of faith in him and believe he's in a good place to play this game."  

Telea's return to the left wing is the only change to the backline and one of just three to the 23.   

Samisoni Taukei'aho replaces Dane Coles on the bench and after his added-time heroics against Ireland, Sam Whitelock makes a return to partner Scott Barrett at lock  

"We feel having Sam start brings us a little bit of extra energy into that pack early and we've got Brodie coming off the bench," added Foster.

Last year's historic loss to Argentina at Christchurch has been front of mind this week and memories of what went wrong that night has helped fuel their semi-final preparation, as is the relative unknown of what the Pumas can possess at a World Cup.  

"We don't know each other in terms of a Rugby World Cup," said Foster. "In that sense, it's a stage of the tournament that's new for us and we've already seen Rugby World Cups are very different."    

The All Blacks have already produced one knockout performance for the ages and while it might be unrealistic to expect they'll reach the same heights again, they're confident they can inflict similar pain on Los Pumas.

Lessons learned from their failed 2019 semi-final are crucial in making sure history doesn't repeat.  

"Just remembering the pain of it is a big driver," said halfback Aaron Smith. "That feeling probably helped us reset." 

The All Blacks are doomed to a third-place playoff in 2019.
The All Blacks are doomed to a third-place playoff in 2019. Photo credit: Getty Images

Said Foster: "In 2019, we probably didn't stop being patted on the back enough, after the quarter-final."  

There's been similar praise this time around, but the All Blacks are confident they've well and truly come down, and are ready to get up again for the Pumas challenge  

They know what will happen if they don't.  

"There are two very different Mondays we can turn up for next week and one of them is horrible," said Cane.

A Monday before a playoff for third is not an experience the All Blacks are keen to repeat.

Join Newshub at 8am Saturday for live updates of the All Blacks v Argentina World Cup semi-final