New Zealand wary of England repeat at Rugby World Cup as pressure on All Blacks

Rugby World Cup: Highlights day 23

The All Blacks are using their 2019 World Cup semi-final mugging by England to ward off the threat of over-confidence ahead of Friday night’s last-four clash with Argentina. Having beaten Ireland at the quarter-final stage just like four years ago only to plateau the week after, New Zealand want to make sure lightning does not strike twice.

“It’s something some of us have already been thinking about,” said New Zealand defence coach Scott MacLeod. “I guess an answer from me would be the way we prepare during that week.

“I thought last week our detail and our energy and our focus was top class and it gave the players confidence to go out and execute. In 2019 we didn’t do that as well in our week leading into England.

“There were a couple of bits and pieces there – our captain Kieran Read couldn’t train and there were disruptions. So, we have to make sure that we don’t have those disruptions and we build the week with the quality and the focus that we did last week.”

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New Zealand will start overwhelming favourites against opponents they have lost to just twice in 36 meetings but centre Jordie Barrett insists they will not take the Pumas lightly.

“We are not getting ahead of ourselves,” said Barrett. “They have scored plenty of points in the last fortnight and they are a quality team.”

The All Blacks paid a classy tribute to the retiring Johnny Sexton after crushing Ireland’s World Cup dreams. Their official account on X, formerly Twitter, wrote: “A legend of the game. You’ve had a stellar career, Johnny. Thank you for all the battles over the years.”

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Irish number eight Jack Conan admitted: “He cares so much and he sacrifices so much and it doesn’t feel right that we couldn’t do it for him.

“In my eyes, he is the greatest Irish player of all time for what he has done and it’s been an incredible joy of mine to play with him for so many years and to have been in so many dressing rooms with him. It’s just not right that we couldn’t do better for him.”

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