Some reading before the game to you …
Just a change from Cheika to the Argentina team that beat Waleswith Dragons scrum-half Gonzalo Bertranou returning to the starting XI and Tomas Cubelli out of the squad entirely.
For New Zealand, Ian Foster returns to Richie Mo’unga at full-back, with Beauden Barrett returning at full-back. Winger Mark Tele’a also returns, while Ethan de Groot, Tyrel Lomax and Shannon Frizell start in the outfield.
Start XV: 15 Juan Cruz Mallia; 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Santiago Chocobares, 11 Mateo Carreras; 10 Santiago Carreras 9 Gonzalo Bertranou; 1 Thomas Gallo, 2 Julian Montoya (c), 3 Francisco Gómez Kodela; 4 Guido Petti Pagadizabal, 5 Tomas Lavanini; 6 Juan Martin Gonzalez 7 Marcos Kremer, 8th Facundo Isa.
Substitute: 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.
Start XV: 15 Beauden Barrett; 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a; 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Ethan de Groot, 2 Codie Taylor, 3 Tyrel Lomax; 4 Samuel Whitelock, 5 Scott Barrett; 6 Shannon Frizell, 7 Sam Cane (c), 8th Ardie Savea.
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.
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Aus), Karl Dickson (Eng)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
The quarter-final was one of the best Rugby World Cup weekends ever – does the semi-final compare? Well, the instinctive answer might not be – after four tense and thrilling duels in the last week, both games start with clear favorites. Less sympathetic observers might argue that we saw the semi-final last week and this round is a mere formality before next Saturday’s showdown between the All Blacks and the Springboks.
Of course, this is detrimental to unbeaten England (who play against South Africa tomorrow), Argentina (who have already been here twice) and the whole concept of a World Cup semi-final. We’ve seen favorites fail here and crumble under pressure against opponents riding a wave of confidence. New Zealand knows this better than most.
The contenders for the all-time title have failed at this limit four times, memorably disappointing France in 1999 and (to a lesser extent) England in 2019. New Zealand have posted an overall record of 94-15 in their last two games against Argentina, but the scoresheet will be reset to zero for tonight. In Michael Cheika, the Pumas have one of the most skilled players in rugby – and there are parallels in the way both teams got here.
Both teams lost their first game in the tournament and regrouped in their own ways. New Zealand completely released the creative handbrake while Argentina moved into knockout mode, battling through must-win group games and carrying that momentum into the game against Wales, which they won by 12 points – the largest margin of the four Quarterfinal games.
New Zealand fought and won a bitter battle with Ireland to get here – and that should neutralize any threat of complacency. They are the clear and undeniable favorites tonight, but unlike Argentina, they have something to lose. This is a spectacle of a different kind – a test of nerves that the resurgent All Blacks are expected to overcome, but a contest that offers perhaps the greatest thrill of all.