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All Blacks primed and ‘ready’ for Springboks in World Cup final

By Finn Morton
Aaron Smith of New Zealand leads the Haka ahead of 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 Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

Assistant coach Scott McLeod insists the All Blacks are “ready” and “excited” for their unmissable clash with the Springboks in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup final at Stade de France.

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The All Blacks were written off by many coming into the sport’s showpiece event. New Zealand had hit rock bottom following a record 35-7 loss to fierce rivals South Africa in London.

But the perception of the New Zealanders’ title hopes went from bad to worse two weeks later. For the first time in World Cup history, the All Blacks lost a match in pool play.

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France emerged victorious on a famous night in Saint-Denis, but the All Blacks would have the last laugh. That loss seemed to fuel the men in black who have improved week after week.

The All Blacks put the world on notice when they knocked out one of the tournament favourites Ireland in the quarter-finals, and their 44-6 win a week later over Argentina was nothing short of masterful.

But assistant coach Scott McLeod dismissed the notion that mental and physical fatigue could be an issue in the All Blacks camp ahead of their shot at Twickenham redemption against their greatest rivals.

“There are two parts to that – there are the bodies, but looking at how we’re tracking, we have 33 fit men,” McLeod told reporters on Monday.

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“A number of those guys have come back from injury lately so they haven’t felt the full wear and tear of the tournament and they actually feel quite fresh.

“And when parts of your game work through the quarter-final and semi-final week, you get belief out of that, that is also a mental freshness. That is not something that drains you.

“Mentally and physically we are ready for this. We are excited. We probably have to hold the boys a little bit.”

Knockout

New Zealand
South Africa
11 - 12
Final
Argentina
New Zealand
6 - 44
SF1
England
South Africa
15 - 16
SF2
Wales
Argentina
17 - 29
QF1
Ireland
New Zealand
24 - 28
QF2
England
Fiji
30 - 24
QF3
France
South Africa
28 - 29
QF4

The All Blacks were a class above in their semi-final. New Zealand defeated Rugby Championship rivals Argentina by a relentless scoreline as they booked their spot in the big dance.

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For the players involved in the disappointment, dread and sorrow of their semi-final exit to England four years ago, it was a redeeming moment of sorts.

The likes of Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are potentially 80 minutes away from becoming ‘former All Blacks’ – but they can go out on top of the world as well.

“Knowing it’s my last week, I knew it was going to come to an end. The silver lining for me is I got to control how I went out,” Smith told reporters about an hour after full-time.

“Obviously signed elsewhere next year but I wanted to make sure this year I had no regrets about how I played, my preparation and giving myself and the team the best I can give.

“I’m just blessed (that) I’m trusted by the coaches and the boys to play. I pray to be standing talking to you next week.”

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