For a team that came under immense pressure, criticism and scrutiny during an underwhelming run of form last year, the All Blacks have made a statement by booking their place in another Rugby World Cup final.
Many New Zealand rugby fans pinned the blame on coach Ian Foster after the All Blacks’ disastrous run of six defeats in eight Tests. Dating back to the 2021 end-of-season tour, they had lost to France, Ireland, South Africa and Argentina.
But New Zealand Rugby publicly backed coach Foster through to the end of the Rugby World Cup, and that’s proven to be a masterstroke a week out from the final. The 2023 All Blacks are potentially 80 minutes away from rugby immortality.
New Zealand silenced some doubters during a thrilling 28-24 quarter-final win over Ireland at Stade de France, and they backed that up with another promising performance against Argentina.
But coach Ian Foster insists that “there’s not a personal agenda” about the All Blacks’ World Cup run, although New Zealand Rugby has already confirmed that Scott Robertson will take over after the tournament.
“You have to enjoy your work. It’s not like it’s a focus for us to go out there and have fun, but to make sure we execute our game to the level we need to,” Foster told reporters on Friday.
“The team takes a lot of pride when they do that. The work the players and leaders are doing is a real credit to them. As you go through tournaments, you have to enjoy it. There is a lot of pressure, so if you don’t celebrate moments, it is a long old time.
“I am proud to be part of this group, the coaches are linking well with the players and there is a nice synergy about it. But you know, one more week
“There’s not a personal agenda here, this is about the All Blacks and the team. Things have happened to individuals and to me, but the team comes first. Right now we’re making a lot of those decisions together as a group and it is working well.”
Argentina took the lead early with wing Emiliano Boffelli nailing a routine penalty attempt from close range, but the All Blacks appeared eager to bounce back.
But the All Blacks hit back with seven unanswered tries as they ran away with a 38-point demolition of their southern hemisphere rivals. While the New Zealanders were favoured to win this contest, it was still an eye-catching victory.
The All Blacks overcame external doubts over their ability to lift again after such a taxing contest in the quarter-finals to defeat Los Pumas 44-6 on Friday night.
“Yeah, in a World Cup semi-final, the goal is to go and win it, and we won it. It was a tough battle,” Foster added.
“Argentina played with massive passion and accuracy in that first part of the game and put us under a lot of pressure and that’s what you expect.
“I loved our composure, we stayed in the game and when we had our opportunities, we were pretty clinical in executing. Before and after half-time, those few minutes were pretty important, those eight points gave us that buffer.
“A World Cup semi-final is a great preparation for a World Cup final, that’s all I’d say.”
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