New Zealand edge Ireland in epic
Argentina hit back to stun Wales
All Blacks chase fourth World Cup triumph
Argentina v New Zealand
Live on ITV
All Blacks stun Ireland
New Zealand's pursuit of a fourth World Cup triumph is gathering strength with the All Blacks facing a semi-final on Friday night against Argentina. Despite opening the tournament with a defeat against France, New Zealand have reached the last four and ended Ireland's reign at the top of the world rankings in an epic quarter-final.
The lopsided nature of the draw was always bound to present several huge quarter-finals and last weekend did not disappoint. New Zealand faced a massive challenge against Ireland but the All Blacks produced an exceptional performance in their enthralling 28-24 victory in Paris.
Tries from Leicester Fainga'anuku, Ardie Savea and Will Jordan helped the All Blacks end Ireland's 17-match winning run. New Zealand were indebted to an outstanding defence and Jordie Barrett's last-ditch intervention, on the try line late on, was arguably the decisive moment in extending their run in France.
Argentina have progressively improved at the World Cup after a disappointing start. Michael Cheika's team were beaten in their opener against England, despite having an extra player for almost the entire game, but three victories in the pool stage enabled them to reach the knockout stage.
The Pumas were in trouble early on against Wales in their quarter-final, as they trailed by 10 points, before mounting a fightback. Second-half tries from Joel Sclavi and Nicolas Sanchez, in front of the huge backing of Argentina's fans, helped them recover to seal a 27-19 win and set up a duel with the All Blacks.
New Zealand have a dominant record against their opponents with Argentina winning just twice. But both of these victories have come since 2020, including the Pumas' stunning victory in Christchurch last year. Argentina have shown they can defeat the All Blacks recently but toppling them on the biggest stage is another matter.
The All Blacks are just 1.11/10 to win on Friday night with Argentina rank outsiders at 12.011/1. The betting suggests this will be a formality but perhaps this is slightly harsh on the Pumas considering they have won two of the last seven clashes.
New Zealand still appear to hold all the answers for this semi-final and could be peaking at the perfect time after their outstanding win over Ireland. The All Blacks thrashed Argentina 41-12 in their last meeting back in Mendoza in July. It was all over at half-time with New Zealand leading 31-0 and another fast start is predicted in Paris.
The All Blacks, who have scored the most tries at this World Cup with 41 from just five matches, should be backed to race out of the blocks and cover a nine-point first-half handicap on their way to a place in the final.
Who will win the Rugby World Cup? Latest betting odds
South Africa are 10/111.91 favourites to win the World Cup after their dramatic win over France. New Zealand are just behind them in the betting at 11/102.11 after dumping Ireland out.
England are third favourites at 14/115.00 while Argentina are the outsiders at 40/141.00.
Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster