‘Battle-hardened’ Ireland ready for New Zealand challenge
Beating New Zealand twice in their past three duels has given Ireland a sense of confidence going into their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal next weekend.
The Irish are also heartened by their 47-5 win over Samoa in Fukuoka on Oct. 12, while the All Blacks had to sit out the weekend after their match against Italy in Toyota City was canceled because of Typhoon Hagibis.
“New Zealand will be fresh, we’ll be battle-hardened,” declared Andrew Conway, who went on as a replacement against Samoa and scored their final try.
Japan’s 28-21 win over Scotland on Oct. 13 ensured it finishes top of Pool A and earned a quarterfinal against South Africa, while runner-up Ireland will play the three-time defending champion.
After 111 years without success against the All Blacks, Ireland broke through three years ago with a 40-29 victory in Chicago, wiping out the New Zealanders’ aura of invincibility and backing up with a 16-9 win in Dublin last year.
The All Blacks head into their first knockout match on a quest to win a third consecutive World Cup, while Ireland want to get past the quarter-finals for the first time in nine attempts.
A negative for the All Blacks’ preparation is that since beating the Springboks at the start of the tournament, they will have gone 28 days without stern opposition having had easy runs against minnows Canada and Namibia before their Italy game was called off.
Ireland, which beat Scotland and Russia but lost to Japan, had the benefit of fine-tuning its game in Oct. 12’s seven-try romp against Samoa.
Coach Joe Schmidt said it wasn’t a complete performance but it showed his side was building nicely.
“You’ve got to be at your very best to have a chance,” said the New Zealander, adding that the recovery of his forwards would be key.
“It was enough work that we got through that will stand for us hopefully,” he said.
“The forwards particularly really muscled up well and had to work really hard. That’s a little bit attritional but it’s something they enjoy doing anyway."