Mateo Carreras of Argentina and Richie Mo'unga of New Zealand in action during the Rugby World Cup France 2023 semi-final match between Argentina and New Zealand at Stade de France on October 20, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Getty Images)
New Zealand’s incoming prime minister joined his countrymen in heaping praise on an All Blacks side that has exceeded national expectations by reaching the Rugby World Cup final.
The three-time champions were regarded as outside hopes to clinch the silverware by many in the rugby-mad country after going into the tournament in mixed form and emphatically losing their opening pool game to hosts France.
However, last week’s desperate 28-24 quarter-final defeat of top-ranked Ireland reset expectations, and Saturday’s 44-6 semi-final dismantling of Argentina had headline writers searching for superlatives.
Christopher Luxon, whose centre-right National Party was elected into power in last week’s general election, took a break from negotiating the make-up of his new parliament to post a supportive message on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“The All Blacks — what a team!” he wrote.
“They’ve been incredible this tournament — fighting hard when it counted and proved the pundits wrong to reach rugby’s greatest showpiece — the Rugby World Cup final. One more mountain to climb.”
The New Zealand Herald focused on the improvements made under head coach Ian Foster since the “chaos” of his team’s first-ever defeat on home soil to Argentina little more than a year ago.
Foster has one week remaining in the role, after New Zealand Rugby chose seven months ago to promote successful domestic coach Scott Robertson to the All Blacks top job next year.
“Foster is now 80 minutes away from writing one of the greatest redemption stories in rugby history,” the NZ Herald said.
“The Pumas, bless them, just aren’t a great team, but the All Blacks, with the sort of withdrawn efficiency of a surgeon on his fourth in-grown toenail operation of the day, pulled them apart in such a manner as to make them look worse than they really are.”
Former World Cup-winning All Black Israel Dagg said Foster had delivered the perfect response to his critics.
“Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of people out there who had a lot of doubt potentially with what’s gone on. Mixed results, mixed selection, and thoughts about are we good enough. Now we are going to a World Cup final,” former fullback Dagg told Sky Sport.
“Fozzy will be chuffed. Everyone has bet against him. He has stayed true to who he is and what he’s about and potentially could leave on a winning note.”
© Agence France-Presse