Rugby World Cup: Harsh lessons of recent history keep All Blacks grounded against heavy underdogs Argentina

The All Blacks' semi-final preparations are in full swing in Paris, with memories of their exit at this stage of the tournament four years ago still looming large.  

The side admit there's an air of confidence about the group following a dominant quarter-final victory against the Irish, but as their focus shifts to Argentina, their recent history against them hasn't been forgotten.  

Two days after their triumph at Stade de France, the praise and plaudits continue for the All Blacks, with hotel staff applauding them as they packed up their base to head to a new location across town. 

But while the team's moving on, they're not entirely ready to leave behind the memories of a dominant win over Ireland. 

"I think it's a balance of both," said coach Jason Ryan. "Between coming down off that and also building off the confidence the boys have got as well. Because we've got a bit of confidence, but by no means is there any arrogance with that. 

Argentina players celebrate last year's win in Christchurch.
Argentina players celebrate last year's win in Christchurch. Photo credit: Photosport

While they'll quickly switch focus from Ireland to Argentina, the way in which they orchestrated Sunday's win will remain front of mind. 

Hooker Dane Coles says the win is crucial to setting the standard for the team going forward into the final four. 

"We'll take a lot of confidence but we've got to go to another gear," said Coles. "We've seen World Cups are very different with the results over the weekend.  

"They're going to be a different beast, it's not so long ago we lost to them in New Zealand for the first time." 

Memories of that defeat in Christchurch last year will loom large this week.   

The All Blacks were fresh off a momentous win at Ellis Park just two weeks prior, only to fall apart at AMI Stadium. 

The way they managed that week will form part of their preparation.   

"You've got to be honest around that," said Ryan. "It'll be talked around this morning a little when we start previewing.

"But like I said, we're a different team. They're a different team. We learned a lot in that game as well." 

While the All Blacks will reflect on prior performances against Argentina, the reality is their recent history counts for little at this stage of a World Cup.  

The quarter-finals have already proved expectation is irrelevant when it comes to knockout rugby - just ask Ireland and France.  

"People thought they were going to be the two dominant teams in this World Cup, and it's just the team that shows up on the day I reckon," said Coles. "Prior form means nothing"  

No one should know that better than the All Blacks. Their 2019 semi-final exit saw them run into an English wall with no way through.  

Lessons learned from that encounter are fueling their ambition to go one better this year.  

"You've still got to be evolving things during this World Cup," added Ryan. "You can't sit still and think it's just going to happen again." 

Make that mistake and the All Blacks could be packing their bags for home a day early following a playoff for third.  

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