Ireland V New Zealand Preview
Saturday’s quarter-final will see Ireland face the All Blacks for a fifth time under Joe Schmidt's charge. The All Blacks are defending champions having claimed the World Cup title in 2011 and 2015 and the Ireland side entered the 2019 tournament ranked World Number 1 by World Rugby. Two of the Worlds best are set reignite the excitement of the World Cup after last week’s match cancellations. The anticipation is marked by the stark contrasts between both sides. From a historical, stylistic and performance perspective the sides are coming to the Quarter Final from very different perspectives.
The All Blacks are the defending champions, for the second time in a row. Ireland will have to dig deep to contend against the favourites. Despite current form concerns, Ireland ended a 111-year wait for a victory at against the All Blacks with a 40-29 win in 2016 and Ireland beat New Zealand 16-9 at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin to record their first ever home win against the All Blacks in 2018. The 2016 and 2018 losses against Ireland will not be far from the minds of the All Blacks and pride will be at the fore of the New Zealand’s side mentality on Saturday. The All Blacks haven't lost a World Cup match since 2007 and the repercussions for not defending the World Cup title in New Zealand would be brutal and unforgiving. Ireland know the All Black’s are beatable, but Ireland have never won a knockout game at a World Cup, nor have they ever made it past the quarterfinals.
Ireland’s campaign has not gone exactly to plan to date, finishing second in Pool A, the physical demands of the All Blacks is a concerning when the Irish side have at times looked weary in their qualifying matches. The All Blacks have had less competition-time in the form of matches, playing well against South Africa on the opening weekend of the tournament they have only played twice since and it has been over two weeks since their last match. The team will be well rested without. From a performance perspective this may not be a positive, but only time will tell
When put under pressure, the All Blacks play insticitive, physical and at times wreckless rugby.
Most interestingly, both sides play characteristically opposed styles of play. The methodical, technical, disciplined and even-paced Irish are polar opposite to the fast, frantic and ferocious All Blacks approach. Regardless of play preference, both teams know exactly what to expect from each other, there are not likely to be any surprises, although Schmidt is known to pull out a trick or two, it is unlikely that either team will deviate from their default play.
Regardless of the outcome, the game is set to be an impressive spectacle of the World’s best rugby.