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Sam Whitelock: 'New Zealand looking to raise bar further'

Sam Whitelock: 'New Zealand looking to raise bar further'
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The All Blacks are favourites for the semi-final clash in Yokohama.

Sam Whitelock has warned England that New Zealand have the ability to win Saturday's World Cup semi-final by any means necessary.

The All Blacks inflicted a record World Cup defeat on Ireland in Saturday's merciless 46-14 quarter-final victory in Tokyo.

Now the back-to-back defending champions will push their quest for an unprecedented third-straight World Cup crown to Yokohama, where they will meet Eddie Jones' England.

Beauden Barrett has been a revelation for New Zealand at full-back
Beauden Barrett has been a revelation for New Zealand at full-back (Adam Davy/PA)

New Zealand shifted star fly-half Beauden Barrett to full-back in the summer and have reaped untold rewards of his twin-playmaker pairing with new number 10 Richie Mo'unga.

But the All Blacks battered Ireland in the tight exchanges on Saturday too, leaving second-row Whitelock purring on the all-court threat of boss Steve Hansen's men.

"It's the reality of playing rugby that there's so many different styles," said Whitelock.

"You can go out there and have an awesome backline and win games through them, or you can punt the ball up the tight five's jumper and play that way.

New Zealand's Brodie Retallick starred in the win over Ireland
New Zealand's Brodie Retallick starred in the win over Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

"But I'd like to think us as a team have a few different strengths, and it's nice to use a few of those in different games.

"It's pretty cool to see guys stepping up on the biggest stage, it's always what you dream of but when it happens it's great.

"If someone puts in a big shot in defence everyone else just wants to get in there and put in one as big if not bigger."

Whitelock's engine room partner Brodie Retallick starred amid New Zealand's ruthless dismantling of Ireland, and all after almost missing the tournament in the first place with a serious shoulder injury.

Sam Whitelock says New Zealand are relishing the challenge of reaching greater heights
Sam Whitelock says New Zealand are relishing the challenge of reaching greater heights (Mark Baker/AP)

Hailing Retallick's stylish return, Whitelock revealed the All Blacks are relishing the challenge to push themselves on to ever greater heights.

"It was great to have Brodie back, he put in a big shift," said Whitelock.

"It just shows his quality that he can get back in and straight away produce performances to that level.

"That kind of thing gives everyone a huge amount of confidence, and it's always great to play alongside him.

"It's hugely exciting for us if we can keep setting our bar higher.

Patrick Tuipulotu has played an important role for New Zealand in the World Cup
Patrick Tuipulotu has played an important role for New Zealand in the World Cup (David Davies/PA)

"It's always nice to be around for another week. It's great for us.

"There's massive awesome competition in the squad, we've got some amazing players who weren't in the 23 tonight.

"But that's just really helping us as a team. We're always trying to get better.

"Looking at the locks, Patrick (Tuipulotu) didn't play but he's been awesome for us in the tournament so far.

"You guys probably don't see the work he does for us in training, but this week he was awesome and that all definitely pays off for the entire squad on the pitch in the end."

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