PARIS: New Zealand has summoned Mark Tele’a from purgatory to face an Argentina side which changed only its scrumhalf for their Rugby World Cup semifinal on Friday at Stade de France.
The Pumas are starting Gonzalo Bertranou instead of Tomas Cubelli in anticipation of a much faster game than when they overcame Wales 29-17 last Saturday in a Marseille quarterfinal.
Left winger Tele’a was axed from the quarterfinal against Ireland last weekend after breaking curfew. He was replaced by Leicester Fainga’anuku, who went on to score the All Blacks’ opening try in their stunning 28-24 win.
But Tele’a was back in the team’s good graces on Wednesday.
“He has done his time,” coach Ian Foster said. “He made a mistake and accepted what happened but you don’t linger in that space. We have got faith in him and think he is in a good place to play this game.”
In New Zealand’s second change, lock Sam Whitelock will start ahead of Brodie Retallick with a chance to become the first player in tournament history to appear in three finals. Whitelock was a World Cup winner in 2011 and 2015.
Samisoni Taukei’aho displaced veteran Dane Coles as the backup hooker.
New Zealand was the big favorite but wary of history repeating itself. The All Blacks had the same status in 2019 and were crushed by England in the semifinals. Nearer in time, the All Blacks enjoyed a great win against South Africa at Ellis Park last year then suffered their first loss at home to Argentina, two years after their first loss ever to the Pumas.
Defense won the day last year in Christchurch as the Pumas made 195 tackles to New Zealand’s 87.
“As soon as you get on the field you must believe you can win,” Pumas captain Julian Montoya said. “It’s true we have some firsts under our belts. We were the first (Argentina team) to beat New Zealand (in New Zealand), it confirms we can beat anyone. This is the moment to play the best game of our lives.”
In its third World Cup semifinal, Argentina aims to reach its first final.
There are seven survivors from their previous semifinal in 2015, a loss to an Australia team coached by current Pumas mentor Michael Cheika. The list includes Matías Alemanno, Agustín Creevy, Tomas Lavanini, Nicolás Sanchez, Guido Petti, Montoya and No. 8 Facundo Isa, who will play his 50th test.
“You can’t say that one (win against New Zealand) means we can do it as there are a lot of games where we haven’t,” Cheika said.
“That moment has to be just a part of it. What we have done since then, all the success and failures (matters in our preparation). The other team are heavy favorites, everyone is expecting a New Zealand and South Africa final. We just have to focus on what is required.”
Foster said they aren’t taking the Pumas lightly.
“We have learnt to greatly respect Argentina,” he said. “They have a history of overachieving at the World Cup. It is going to be a hell of a game.”
Argentina: Juan Cruz Mallia, Emiliano Boffelli, Lucio Cinti, Santiago Chocobares, Mateo Carreras, Santiago Carreras, Gonzalo Bertranou; Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Juan Martin Gonzalez, Tomas Lavanini, Guido Petti, Francisco Gómez Kodela, Julian Montoya (captain), Thomas Gallo. Reserves: Agustín Creevy, Joel Sclavi, Eduardo Bello, Matias Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Lautaro Bazan Velez, Nicolas Sanchez, Matías Moroni.
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett, Will Jordan, Rieko Ioane, Jordie Barrett, Mark Tele’a, Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane (captain), Shannon Frizell, Scott Barrett, Sam Whitelock, Tyrel Lomax, Codie Taylor, Ethan de Groot. Reserves: Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tamaiti Williams, Fletcher Newell, Brodie Retallick, Dalton Papali’i, Finlay Christie, Damian McKenzie, Anton Lienert-Brown.
AP Rugby World Cup: https://apnews.com/hub/rugby
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