Argentina and New Zealand meet at Stade de France on Friday, both knowing just 80 minutes – and the small matter of the opposition – stand between them and next weekend’s showpiece match.
All Blacks coach Ian Foster has made two changes to his starting XV from the side that put on a ‘dispossession’ masterclass to beat Ireland 28-24 at the same venue last Saturday. Samuel Whitelock replaces Brodie Retallick in the second-row and Mark Tele’a comes in for Leicester Fainga’anuku on the left wing.
Beauden Barrett, who has scored in his last two matches against Los Pumas, is set to face them for a 19th time. Only South Africa’s Eben Etzebeth has played the South American team more often.
Argentina, meanwhile, came back from a 10-point deficit in their quarter-final against Wales to book a third semi-final place. They previously reached this stage in 2007 and 2015, but they have never gone further – losing to eventual champions South Africa the last time the tournament was held in France, and to losing finalists Australia at Twickenham eight years ago.
Coach Michael Cheika has made only one change to his match-day team from the side that defeated Wales 29-17, recalling Gonzalo Bertranou at scrum-half ahead of Tomás Cubelli.
GROUND: Stade de France (80,023)
KICK-OFF: 21st October – 12.30 AM (SL Time)
In 36 matches between The Rugby Championship rivals, including three in Rugby World Cups past, Los Pumas have won just twice – in November 2020, and August 2022.
Ten players in New Zealand’s 23 here played in both those losses – Whitelock, Shannon Frizell, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Tyrel Lomax, Richie Mo’unga, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Codie Taylor and captain Sam Cane.
In 2011, a young Whitelock played in his first Rugby World Cup quarter-final. He was just nine matches into an international career that will reach 152 tests, and counting, here as New Zealand beat Los Pumas 33-10 at Eden Park. Ever the professional sportsman, Whitelock will be gunning for a repeat performance 12 years later as he looks to become the first man to play in three Rugby World Cup finals.
KEY TALKING POINT
Will the third semi-final be the charm for Argentina? The odds are stacked against them – they have so far been unable to go further, and their record against New Zealand is not favourable. But they have started to rack up some victories in recent years. And they’re here. In a Rugby World Cup semi-final. This is a one-off knockout match.
Facundo Isa v Ardie Savea. One for fans of back-row play, no matter your national allegiances, as two of the very best in the business face off against one another. Isa wins his 50th cap here – getting to 25 caps two years after his debut against Scotland in 2014, then returning to the national squad in 2019 to claim the next 24.
Savea, meanwhile, has scored three times in his last two outings, and in each of his last two tests against Argentina. He has never scored in three consecutive tests. Could that change in Saint-Denis?
New Zealand kicked off their quarter-final against Ireland last Saturday with a 30-phase attack, which is impressive enough, but they finished it holding off a 37-phase assault from the Irish – a Rugby World Cup record.
Angus Gardner (Australia). In his first-ever Rugby World Cup knockout outing, and his fourth game in this tournament, Gardner takes charge of a match involving these two sides for the fifth time. He refereed Los Pumas’ 2020 victory over the All Blacks, as well as the most recent meeting between the two sides, a 41-12 victory for New Zealand in The Rugby Championship.
ARGENTINA Juan Cruz Mallía; Emiliano Boffelli, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras; Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Thomas Gallo, Julián Montoya (captain), Francisco Gómez Kodela; Guido Petti Pagadizabal, Tomas Lavanini; Juan Martín González, Marcos Kremer, Facundo Isa
Replacements: Agustín Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bazán Vélez, Nicolás Sánchez, Matías Moroni
NEW ZEALAND Beauden Barrett; Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Mark Tele’a; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ethan de Groot, Codie Taylor, Tyrel Lomax; Samuel Whitelock, Scott Barrett; Shannon Frizell, Sam Cane (captain), Ardie Savea
Replacements: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown
Watch the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2023 LIVE on Sri Lanka’s Number One Sports Channel – ThePapare TV on Dialog Television Channel 126.