It’s the penultimate weekend of a rip-roaring 2023 Rugby World Cup in France, as we find out if the semi-finals can match the drama of a week ago.
Even if they only come close, we’re in for a hell of a ride, kicking off with Argentina going in as heavy underdogs against the New Zealand All Blacks on Friday night in Paris.
Their contest is followed 24 hours later by a rematch of the 2019 final, where South Africa’s Springboks look to do the business against England once again.
Argentina vs New Zealand
A straight shootout pits Argentina against New Zealand in Friday night’s opening semi-final at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in Paris.
The iconic Stade de France takes centre stage for the rest of the tournament, with the All Blacks sizable favourites to seal their place in next weekend’s final in the French capital city.
Opening night defeat at the hands of hosts France at the same venue is now a distant memory for coach Ian Foster and his charges.
They completed their turnaround a week ago with a famous win over much-fancied Ireland, sending the men in emerald green packing by sneaking a heavy-duty, nerve-wrangling 28-24 victory.
It was one that had the fingerprints of current All Black assistant coach and ex-Irish boss Joe Schmidt all over it, as their cast-iron defence held firm against a Northern Hemisphere onslaught.
They even overcame a pair of yellow cards, as tries from Leicester Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan gave them the edge.
Argentina also prevailed over Six Nations opposition in the form of Wales, whose quietly impressive campaign collapsed in a second half heap against Los Pumas in Marseille.
A quartet of Emiliano Boffelli penalties kept them in the contest, before tries from Joel Sclavi and veteran Nicolas Sanchez broke Welsh hearts inside the Stade Velodrome.
It was a far cry from the South Americans’ own competition entrance at the same venue, when they appeared to lose their minds in falling to comprehensive defeat against 14-man England.
But wins over Chile, Samoa and Japan in a tense decider for the runners-up spot in Pool D behind the English ensured their passage to the quarter-finals on the favourable side of the draw.
New Zealand had gone on to unleash hell in their remaining Pool A fixtures, meanwhile, racking up three monster victories while scoring 43 more total group stage points than the next highest World Cup nation – hosts France.
Mark Tele’a has served his time on the naughty step following his unspecified disciplinary issues, with Leicester Fainga’anuku dropping out of the squad.
A luxury choice in the locks sees Sam Whitelock back in the mix at the expense of Brodie Retallick, who takes a place on the bench alongside hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho.
Gonzalo Bertranou is the only change for the Argentinians, as the scrum-half comes in for Tomás Cubelli.
There are, improbably, seven survivors from Los Pumas’ last semi-final appearance in 2015, with Matías Alemanno, Agustín Creevy, Facundo Isa, Tomas Lavanini, Nicolás Sanchez, Guido Petti and captain Julián Montoya all still involved.
Argentina Starting XV: 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 (captain), 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.
New Zealand Starting XV: 15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Will Jordan, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Jordie Barrett, 11 Mark Tele’a, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Sam Cane (captain), 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Samuel 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.
RWC 2023: Argentina vs New Zealand prediction and kick off time
|Team||Win %||Team 2||Win %||Predicted Winner||Predicted Margin|
|Argenina||9.5%||New Zealand||90.5%||New Zealaand||19|
Kick Off Time: 21.00 on Friday 20 October 2023.