Rugby World Cup: Sir Steve Hansen shoulders blame for All Blacks' 2019 failure as class of 2023 look to topple Argentina

Arguably the greatest All Blacks coach of the modern era, if not all time, Sir Steve Hansen points the finger firmly at himself for the failure to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Four years ago, New Zealand headed to Japan as the team to beat. The class of 2019 carried the weight of expectation of a side looking for a threepeat of titles, as they sought to add to their 2011 and 2015 crowns.

After a convincing quarter-final win over Ireland, they came undone a week later, falling to England in the semis.

Eddie Jones and Sir Steve Hansen before the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final
Eddie Jones and Sir Steve Hansen before the 2019 Rugby World Cup semi-final Photo credit: Getty Images

The All Blacks proved unable to scale the high of the previous week, while a leftfield selection of Scott Barrett at No.6 failed to yield the desired result.

With four years of reflection under his belt, Hansen concedes things should have been done differently.

"Subconsciously, we just took a breath," Hansen told Newshub. "I didn't push enough buttons, I probably didn't pick the right side.

"It all falls at my feet, really. Hindsight's a wonderful thing.

"I can reconcile myself, we got most things right over a period of 107 tests, but that was one that got away. As a result, we didn't get to play in the final.

"[It was] annoying, but you can't do anything about it afterwards. You can do something about it this weekend though."

Four years on, the All Blacks will look to atone on Saturday, when coach Ian Foster's side face Argentina at the same stage, just one win away from reaching the 2023 World Cup final.  

Of the side that lost in 2019, 11 players will back up this time, with another three not named to take the field at Paris.

Throughout the week, senior All Blacks have hammered home the point that the pain of the last World Cup cannot been forgotten.

Admittedly, Argentina offer a much more familiar challenge than England did in Japan, facing the All Blacks every year, as part of the Rugby Championship.

Already this year, Foster's side took a 41-12 victory at Mendoza to kick off their 2023 season, showing they have more than enough to get past Los Pumas, when they play at their best.

For Hansen, the challenge this week is more mental than physical or technical, with the players having to put the high of defeating Ireland to the side to concentrate on their next game.  

"It is the hardest thing in the world to do, to repeat back-to-back-to-back big performances," he continued. "It doesn't matter what sport it is.

"Probably not so much for individuals, but for a collective group, you need everyone in the group to be in that same mindset.

"They've had that feeling, they've had that disappointment, they know what's required.

"It won't be through complacency if they get beaten, it'll be because Argentina are a better side.

Argentina celebrate victory over the All Blacks (2022).
Argentina celebrate victory over the All Blacks (2022). Photo credit: Photosport

"I haven't seen enough of them to say if they are or they aren't, but if the All Blacks turn up to play like they can, they'll be a hard team to beat."

Argentina can take encouragement from their own recent displays against the All Blacks.

In the Foster era, Los Pumas have achieved not one, but two famous wins over New Zealand, one in 2020 and another in 2022.  

The fear factor that for a long time held the All Blacks in good stead over nations like Argentina and even Ireland is now gone.

Hansen maintains that neither side's recent run of results count for anything, come the first whistle at the Stade de France, but he has complete faith in his successor to have taken the lessons of 2019 on board to avoid the same fate this time around.  

"What's happened in the past is irrelevant," said Hansen. "This is 80 minutes, do or die.  

"It's all about them preparing as well as they possibly can, which I'm sure they are.

Sir Steve Hansen and Ian Foster.
Sir Steve Hansen and Ian Foster. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I can guarantee Fozzy will have them tuned up and ready to go. If they get that part of their preparation right, and it's deadset and genuine, we're a very good rugby side.

"If we only go half-cooked into the game, Argentina have got the ability to beat us."

New Zealand and Argentina have met 36 times in test rugby, with the All Blacks winning 33, Los Pumas winning two and one draw.

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