Preview: Ireland v New Zealand

In many ways it is fitting that Ireland take on New Zealand in Tokyo on Saturday.

In many ways it is fitting that Ireland take on New Zealand in Tokyo on Saturday.

Over the last four years, Ireland have recorded their first-ever win over the All Blacks, a first win over them in Dublin and even came into the World Cup as the number one team in the world.

New Zealand have reclaimed that spot, and are looking to make to extend their unbeaten run at World Cups that stretches all the way back to 2007 as they target an unprecedented hat-trick.

But this team under Joe Schmidt have made a habit of breaking new ground. As well as those All Black successes, they have won a Test series in Australia and beaten the Springboks in South Africa.

Now they are looking to make history by winning a knockout game at a World Cup for the first time and becoming the most successful Ireland team ever on this stage.

They will do so with virtually a full squad to select from. Bundee Aki is suspended, making Schmidt’s dilemma in the midfield an easier one that it would have been – Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose will start.

Elsewhere Peter O’Mahony and Rob Kearney have come back into the back row and back three respectively with Schmidt prioritising experience in his selection.

New Zealand, meanwhile, have stuck with their dual playmaker game plan, Beauden Barrett starting at full-back to accommodate Richie Mo’unga at ten.

They also have a fully fit Brodie Retallick back. He did not feature against South Africa in their opening game of the tournament, but has since proved his fitness, and according to Steve Hansen, could play the full 80 minutes if required.

It will take an almighty effort from Ireland to end New Zealand’s reign, but Schmidt’s team have made a habit of springing surprises.

Ireland v New Zealand, Saturday October 19, Chofu, Kick-off 11:15AM (BST)

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt:

“The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is that they can play very well and still not get the result. That’s the quality that the All Blacks have – that’s the athletes that they possess.

“But one of the things is that they have connected up very well. They have had some pretty successful experiences together. There are a number of players within that side who have contributed to a fair bit of history for us.

“Obviously, the first win over the All Blacks, the first time we won at home to the All Blacks, but a few other milestones along the way. A lot of those players that are selected were in Australia last summer, were in South Africa the summer before when we won in Cape Town.

“So the accumulation of those experiences together hopefully builds a bit of confidence – because you need to have some belief. You can’t go out against an All Blacks side and accept that you’re second fiddle. You’ve got to go out and put your best foot forward and we hope that this 23 will be committed to doing that.”

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen:

“Come the final whistle one (team) will go right and one will go left. As the Pink Panther said, stage right would be the way to go. We all understand that.

“I caught up with (Ireland’s defence coach) Andy Farrell yesterday and had a yarn with him and in that conversation, that was brought up. One of us will be going home. But that’s just the cold, hard facts about the World Cup.

“We have experienced it (going out) ourselves in ’07 and there’s no guarantees we won’t experience it again. Ireland are in a situation where they haven’t gone past a quarter-final so they will be doing their darndest not to go home. We’ll be the same.

“You just hope it’s a good a game of rugby that excites the tournament, that is not affected by cards and, at the end of it, no one has got any excuses. You then just have to take your fate on the chin.”

It is remarkable to think that Aaron Smith is the only member of this All Black backline who has previously started a World Cup knockout game. With that in mind, his role against Ireland will be crucial, especially against a pairing as experienced as Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton. The duo will break the Ireland record for most Tests played together as a pair, and while Murray missed last year’s win against the All Blacks, he remains one of the most important players in Joe Schmidt’s team. Given the strength of the New Zealand back three, his box-kicking will have to be accurate, while his ability to deliver quick ball to Sexton will be crucial to impose Schmidt’s game plan.

Ireland: 15. Rob Kearney, 14. Keith Earls, 13. Garry Ringrose, 12. Robbie Henshaw, 11. Jacob Stockdale, 10. Johnny Sexton, 9. Conor Murray, 1. Cian Healy, 2. Rory Best (c), 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. James Ryan, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. CJ Stander

Replacements: 16. Niall Scannell, 17. Dave Kilcoyne, 18. Andrew Porter, 19. Tadhg Beirne, 20. Rhys Ruddock, 21. Luke McGrath, 22. Joey Carbery, 23. Jordan Larmour

New Zealand: 15. Beauden Barrett, 14. Sevu Reece, 13. Jack Goodhue, 12. Anton Lienert-Brown, 11. George Bridge, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 9. Aaron Smith, 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Nepo Laulala, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Ardie Savea, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (c)

Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Ofa Tuungafasi, 18. Angus Ta’avao, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Matt Todd, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Sonny Bill Williams, 23. Jordie Barrett