Rugby World Cup: All Blacks move on from Ireland victory as semi-final against Argentina awaits

Winning a Rugby World Cup takes more than a quarter-final win over Ireland - and the All Blacks know that better than most.

In 2019, they did the same in Japan, only to crash out a week later in a semi-final defeat against England.

This time, much of the build-up to Saturday's (NZ time) semi-final has seen them emphasise the need to refocus, which they failed to do four years ago.

Rieko Ioane against Ireland.
Rieko Ioane against Ireland. Photo credit: Getty Images

While some might take comfort from the fact this year's opponents are Argentina, whom the All Blacks face every year, the team themselves know the challenge Los Pumas present.

All up, the All Blacks and Pumas have faced in 36 tests, with 33 of those going New Zealand's way. While just two of those meetings are Argentinian wins, they've both come in the last four years, catching the All Blacks off-guard at Sydney in 2020 and again at Christchurch last year.

Throughout this tournament, the All Blacks have adopted the mantra of being the best team on the day, rather than being the best team in the world. That worked against Ireland, who failed to advance to a first quarter-final, despite being tournament favourites.

Now, according to coach Ian Foster, the All Blacks must do the same again to avoid their tournament ending with a dreaded third/fourth playoff.  

"There's two teams in the semi-final, anyone can win," said Foster. "That's the first mindset that both teams have probably got.

"We're massively respectful of Argentina, they've had a great tournament. We don't live in the past too much, in terms of past results.

Will Jordan against Ireland.
Will Jordan against Ireland. Photo credit: Getty Images

"World Cup tournaments are about the present. It's about the best team on the night.

"To go into a World Cup semi-final with any expectation that the past is going to happen again, you're going to have problems.

"We're just excited about being there ourselves. We've been impressed with Argentina, how they've carried their campaign - it was a great victory against Wales.

"We know they've got that, we play them regularly and they've always been a difficult opponent. There'll be no surprises."

For the players, the scars of 2019 are still visible.

Of the side beaten at Yokohama four years ago, 11 will back up against Argentina at Paris. Another three remain in the squad, but won't play on Saturday, leaving many of the side desperate to right the wrongs of 2019.

Anton Lienert-Brown was one of those who played in the 46-14 win over Ireland at Tokyo and is banking on memories of the week that followed to avoid a repeat in Paris.

"It was a special one last Saturday, but at the end of the day, we didn't come here to beat Ireland in the quarter-finals," he said. "We came here to win the World Cup.

Scott Barrett celebrates victory over Ireland.
Scott Barrett celebrates victory over Ireland. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We enjoyed that night, we enjoyed Sunday and then got back to work on Monday.

"Foz has talked about it a lot and Gilbert Enoka, our mental skills coach, has said about re-setting and getting back into the right mindset.

"We did that from Monday onwards. We know the challenge ahead, we've got to go again.

"We're here to win the World Cup, tomorrow's another step to do that."

Already this week, talk in Paris from outside the All Blacks ranks has shifted towards the prospect of a New Zealand v South Africa final. South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has shut down any notion of that match-up.

In doing the same, Foster emphasises the All Blacks are thinking of nothing other than facing Argentina on Saturday.  

"It's a final, it's definitely a final," he added. "The concept of 'no tomorrow' in the last game is exactly the same as this one.

"We know on the schedule there is another game for the teams that don't win their semi-finals.

"Our mindset - and I'm sure Argentina's is the same - is we want to give everything we've got this week. It's all about this week, that's how we keep things nice and simple in our mind."

The All Blacks and Argentina have met in three previous World Cups, with New Zealand winning all three encounters in 1987, 2011 and 2015.  

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