It is 1,454 days since the All Blacks overcame Ireland in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup in Japan 46 – 14.
Since then, the revival bells have rung in Irish rugby and after a series win in New Zealand (of all places) and the undisputed status as the world’s leading rugby team, many sports fans believe that Johnny Sexton’s team is the favorite to take on the quarter-final winners on Saturday. Kiwis walking away.
Yet one can never afford to underestimate the All Blacks.
The New Zealanders currently boast the most tries (38) and the most points (253) in the tournament, while their set-piece kickers have also sent the most goal kicks (30) over the crossbar.
Since their defeat in the opening match of the rugby spectacle against France, they have also started to play better.
But with all due respect: Namibia and Uruguay are not yet in the same class as Ireland.
“We are never afraid to lose. We believe in each other and our abilities on the rugby field and we don’t see the proverbial glass as half empty at all,” said Rieko Ioane.
Although last year’s flounder on their home field against the fighting Irish was a bitter pill to swallow, the fullback believes that the Kiwis cannot afford to play emotional rugby now.
Clinical play is undoubtedly the watchword.
“It’s about the momentum we built up in the tournament. What happened in the past doesn’t necessarily matter when you’re playing in a World Cup play-off; the best team on the day will win.”
According to Ian Foster, the All Blacks’ full attention is on the Ireland game; they don’t think ahead at all.
“We are approaching the game as if it is a final and if we stand when the final whistle blows, we will look at the rest of the tournament with renewed focus,” said the Kiwi coach.
He also added that his team is excited to face the Irish powers.
“We are well aware of how big this test is. Ireland is the world’s leading team and they are enjoying an unbeaten run of 17 matches. They play with confidence; we really couldn’t ask for a better duel.”
The quarter-finals start on Saturday at 21:00 and the action will be broadcast live on SuperSport.
Results of the last five Tests between Ireland and New Zealand:
New Zealand 46 – 14 Ireland (Tokyo)
Ireland 29 – 20 New Zealand (Dublin)
New Zealand 42 – 19 Ireland (Auckland)
Ireland 23 – 12 New Zealand (Dunedin)
Ireland 32 – 22 New Zealand (Wellington).