Rugby World Cup: All Blacks happy to be back in spotlight after toppling Ireland

Foster expecting tough assignment when they face Argentina in the semi-finals

New Zealand players celebrate after winning their 2023 Rugby World Cup quarter-final match against Ireland. AFP
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New Zealand are more than happy to once again be the centre of attention after knocking the number one ranked Ireland out of the Rugby World Cup, according to coach Ian Foster.

The All Blacks prevailed over the Irish 28-24 in front of almost 80,000 spectators in Paris on Saturday night, despite playing for spells with 14 men after both Aaron Smith and Codie Taylor spent time in the sin bin.

With the Irish sitting atop the world rankings, they had been heavily hyped going into the tournament and were tipped to at least go beyond the last eight for the first time in their history.

Given Ireland's lofty ranking, a long winning streak, and the fact that legendary fly-half Johnny Sexton was set to retire after the tournament, the All Blacks were afforded the rare luxury of a low key build-up with their opponents dominating the pre-match debate.

But after sending Ireland home for a second World Cup in a row to set up a semi-final with Argentina, the Kiwis were suddenly the name on everyone's lips.

"I don't think we'll be under the radar next week," said coach Foster. "We know Argentina well. It'll be a good Southern Hemisphere game.

"All the talk was about Ireland," he added. "They had 17 wins in a row. They’ve built a team for this sort of iconic moment, so they had massive expectations.

"Sometimes the sweetest victories are when your opposition plays very well and tests you to the limit. At the end of the day, we played a lot of that game with 14 players. And we looked in control of it and it felt good. We knew where we had to dig into ourselves to get the result. I couldn't be more proud."

Scores from native Kiwis Bundee Aki and Jamison Gibson-Park and a penalty try kept Ireland in contention during a tense encounter.

However, three-time champions New Zealand underlined their credentials, with Leicester Fainga’anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan each going over in a statement victory. Eight points from the boot of Jordie Barrett and five from Richie Mo’unga helped the All Blacks set up their last four clash with the Argentines in Paris on Friday.

Sexton, Ireland's all-time record points scorer, was denied a fairytale ending to his storied career.

“It’s gutting, isn’t it? It’s small margins and that’s sport. That’s life. It’s unfortunate, but this group will bounce back," said the 38-year-old. “They are an incredible bunch led by the man beside me (coach Andy Farrell). It’s the best group I have ever been a part of. Bar none. These guys will go on and achieve great things."

Argentina booked their spot in the last four with a 29-17 victory over Wales in Marseille earlier on Saturday. Los Pumas have a victory over the All Blacks as recently as August 2022, and coach Michael Cheika is undaunted by the task awaiting his side.

"What we need is clear, that we are going to be able to prepare, how we are going to prepare and how we are going to phase the obstacles - a good simple strategy so that we can be ready for battle and the physical war next weekend," said Cheika.

Updated: October 15, 2023, 12:38 PM