New Zealand are more than used to playing in Rugby World Cup semi-finals. This is the 10th edition of the tournament and they’ve made it to the final four on all but one occasion, only failing to do so in 2007.
This is the stage they’ve bowed out at most often though, recording a 50% win rate in semi-finals, their lowest at any stage of the World Cup. Of course, it’s unsurprising that their win rate would fall as we go deeper into the tournament, but it is interesting that they’ve seen their campaign reach its conclusion at the penultimate round more often than the final.
That might give some hope to Argentina when the two sides meet in Stade de France, Paris on Friday. The Pumas don’t have a great record against the All Blacks, having won just two of their 36 meetings. At a 6% win rate, that’s their lowest against any nation they’ve faced more than five times. Both Pumas’ victories against New Zealand have come since the last World Cup (2020 and 2022) though, so there are plenty of Argentina players with experience of toppling the Kiwis, although that wasn’t quite enough to get the Irish over the line last weekend.
This will be the fourth time New Zealand and Argentina have faced each other at the men’s Rugby World Cup. They met at the inaugural edition of the tournament in New Zealand in 1987 but would have to wait until the World Cup returned to New Zealand in 2011 before facing each other again – their only knockout meeting – while they also met in 2015.
Route to the Knockouts
- Lost 10-27 vs England
- Won 19-10 vs Samoa
- Won 59-5 vs Chile
- Won 39-27 vs Japan
- Won 29-17 vs Wales
- Lost 13-27 vs France
- Won 71-3 vs Namibia
- Won 96-17 vs Italy
- Won 73-0 vs Uruguay
- Won 28-24 vs Ireland
As always, the All Blacks have been dangerous with ball in hand at this year’s Rugby World Cup, averaging 7.9 metres per carry and making 14 line breaks per game – both tournament highs. They haven’t offloaded quite as much as they might have done in the past, but when they’ve offloaded they’ve done so with the best accuracy of any nation, finding a teammate with 86% of their offloads. They’re also the only team to see more than 10% of their offloads end in a try assist (11.6%).
New Zealand’s set-piece has been solid too, with Ian Foster’s team boasting the best lineout success rate (98%) as well as the fifth best scrum success rate (93%) of any team. And they’ve been even better in crunch moments: the All Blacks recorded a 100% set-piece success rate in each of their last three matches – the only other team to win all their scrums and lineouts in a match more than once at this year’s tournament is, in fact, Argentina, who have done so twice.
Los Pumas’ lineout is the third best at the World Cup this year (92%), which has allowed them to get their maul functioning to good effect. They’ve averaged 35 maul metres per game, and 5.4 metres per maul, at this year’s Rugby World Cup, a tournament high.
With ball in hand, Argentina have committed 3+ tacklers from 12.2% of their carries, the highest rate of any team, which has been crucial in tying in defenders and leaving space to attack elsewhere.
Defensively New Zealand have been solid, boasting the fourth best tackle success rate – and best of any semi-finalist – at this year’s tournament. However, their missed tackles and subsequent scramble defence could give them some cause for concern. New Zealand are one of nine teams to see at least 30% of their missed tackles lead to a line break or try and while it’s not the worst rate of a nation this campaign, the defensive record of those eight other teams – Namibia, Italy, Romania, Georgia, Tonga, Portugal, Chile and Uruguay – suggest they’re not in good company in that regard.
Argentina are one of just six teams to turn at least 40% of their line breaks into tries, so the All Blacks could be punished if they don’t tighten up that aspect of their game.
Although Argentina have the highest rate of committing three or more tacklers from their carries, it has had a knock-on effect on how effective their carries have been – their 51.5% gainline success rate is just the 11th best of any team at this World Cup, while only six teams have recorded a lower dominant carry rate (37.9%). Tying in opposition defenders is great, but if you’re constantly going backwards then it’s difficult to make use of any space created elsewhere.
Sam Cane put in a real captain’s performance against Ireland in the quarter-finals, leading the way with his defensive effort while Ardie Savea has been one of the best players in the world for the last couple of years. He knows his way to the try line. Since his All Blacks debut he’s scored 24 tries, only six players – all backs – have scored more for a Tier 1 nation in that period, while he’s also assisted a further 19 tries. No other forward has assisted more than 11.
If (when) the game opens up then one of the All Blacks’ biggest threats will be the returning Mark Tele’a. One of the most elusive runners in world rugby, even when you think you’ve got him, you probably haven’t. Of the 113 backs to make 20+ carries at this Rugby World Cup, only Springbok wrecking ball Damian de Allende (78%) has a higher rate of committing 2+ defenders per carry than Tele’a (77%).
For Argentina, despite making just one start so far at this year’s World Cup, Nicolás Sánchez could be a key player for the Pumas in what could be a tight game decided by fine margins. Sánchez has slotted each of his 11 kicks at goal. Only Tommaso Allan (16/16) has attempted more without missing at this year’s tournament and Sánchez’s reliability from the tee could be crucial.
Thomas Gallo has been one of the Pumas’ top performers this campaign and his ability with ball in hand has been eye-catching. He’s beaten 18 defenders, the most of any forward and even more impressive given that he is a prop, a position that hasn’t historically been known for evading tackles. In fact, Gallo’s tally is already more than any front-rower in any edition of the Rugby World Cup.
Argentina v New Zealand Prediction
Win prediction: Argentina 13.6% – Draw 0.2% – New Zealand 86.2%
Score prediction: Argentina 13-35 New Zealand
The Opta supercomputer has New Zealand as strong favourites for this encounter, giving them an 86.2% chance of winning. Argentina are clear underdogs, given just a 13.6% chance of what would be a momentous victory.
Argentina v New Zealand Lineups
For the Pumas, in comes Gonzalo Bertranou to start ahead of Tomas Cubelli in anticipation of a much faster game than when they overcame Wales 29-17 in Marseille.
Argentina: 15. Juan Cruz Mallia, 14. Emiliano Boffelli, 13. Lucio Cinti, 12. Santiago Chocobares, 11. Mateo Carreras, 10. Santiago Carreras, 9. Gonzalo Bertranou, 8. Facundo Isa, 7. Marcos Kremer, 6. Juan Martin Gonzalez, 5. Tomas Lavanini, 4. Guido Petti, 3. Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2. Julian Montoya (c), 1. Thomas Gallo
Replacements: 16. Agustin Creevy, 17. Joel Sclavi, 18. Eduardo Bello, 19. Matias Alemanno, 20. Rodrigo Bruni, 21. Lautaro Bazan Velez, 22. Nicolas Sanchez, 23. Matias Moroni
In team news from New Zealand, left-wing Mark Tele’a is back in the starting XV after being dropped for disciplinary reasons for the World Cup quarter-final win over Ireland. Sam Whitelock comes into the second row as a straight swap for Brodie Retallick.
New Zealand: 15. Beauden Barrett, 14. Will Jordan, 13. Rieko Ioane, 12. Jordie Barrett, 11. Mark Telea, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith, 8. Ardie Savea, 7. Sam Cane (c), 6. Shannon Frizell, 5. Scott Barrett, 4. Sam Whitelock, 3. Tyrel Lomax, 2. Codie Taylor, 1. Ethan de Groot
Replacements: 16. Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17. Tamaiti Williams, 18. Fletcher Newell, 19. Brodie Retallick, 20. Dalton Papali’i, 21. Finlay Christie, 22. Damian McKenzie, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown