Ireland have never won a quarter final game in the World Cup. This time around we need to beat the World Champions, the team that has always been the best.
The bookies are making New Zealand the twelve point favourites and given our trouble in the pool stages against Japan, you can see where they are coming from.
New Zealand had their own difficulties. Their defence is excellent and they held up to a South African onslaught for much of their opening match, but apart from a few moments of brilliance, they struggled to break down a tough South African side.
Can Ireland pose the same questions? South Africa, at times, and especially in the opening quarter, made New Zealand look ordinary with ball in hand. Ordinary! They could not cross the gain line and were being slowly driven back, suffocating in their own half of the pitch.
It only took a few moments of carelessness by South Africa, an intercepted pass, to allow New Zealand a foothold on the score board. Three points for a penalty that could easily have been a try. Then another fourteen points, all scored within six minutes. Give New Zealand an inch and they will take the pitch.
Ireland has a great defence, but they need to be able to keep it up for an entire game without any slipped tackles or mistakes. Hopefully with the temperature dropping slightly and the humidity falling as we prepare to enter Winter, there will be no repeat of the fatigue issues we witnessed in the opening three games. Can Ireland keep New Zealand try-less.
We did so at the Aviva almost a year ago. That has to be the target tomorrow. If we can keep them from breaching our line, then we stand a chance.
I feel that the twelve point spread is unkind to Ireland and I will take the bookies on. I don’t feel confident of us being able to win, however. Everything has to go right, from getting our set piece play calls right to making every tackle count. We need to be savvy with where we play on the pitch.
New Zealand are dangerous from any position. Kick loosely with Beauden Barrett in the back field and you invite disaster. The spotlight will be on Johnny and Conor and their ability to pin the All Blacks back in their half.
|Cian Healy||1||Joe Moody|
|Rory Best (Captain)||2||Codie Taylor|
|Tadhg Furlong||3||Nepo Lualua|
|Iain Henderson||4||Brodie Retallick|
|James Ryan||5||Sam Whitelock|
|Peter O’Mahony||6||Ardie Savea|
|Josh van der Flier||7||Sam Cane|
|CJ Stander||8||Kieran Read (Captain)|
|Conor Murray||9||Aaron Smith|
|Johnny Sexton||10||Richie Mo’unga|
|Jacob Stockdale||11||George Bridge|
|Robbie Henshaw||12||Anton Lienert-Brown|
|Garry Ringrose||13||Jack Goodhue|
|Keith Earls||14||Sevu Reece|
|Rob Kearney||15||Beauden Barrett|
|Niall Scannell||16||Dane Coles|
|Dave Kilcoyne||17||Ofa Tuungafasi|
|Andrew Porter||18||Angus Ta’avao|
|Tadhg Beirne||19||Scott Barrett|
|Rhys Ruddock||20||Matt Todd|
|Luke McGrath||21||TJ Perenara|
|Joey Carbery||22||Sonny Bill Williams|
|Jordan Larmour||23||Jordie Barrett|
The Irish team picked itself. With Bundee Aki out of the picture, there was never really a doubt. Perhaps Tadhg Beirne or Rhys Ruddock might have raised enough doubt, but they will play their part before the day is done.
Hopeful but nervous. I think that just about sums up the Irish feelings about the game.
We all knew that it would come down to a game like this. A clash with one of the Southern hemisphere giants. This time around we don’t go into the game having never beaten New Zealand – we’ve won two games against them including the last time out. But it doesn’t make it any less worrying.