The daily tournament preview packs down with Rugby World Cup tips for Ireland’s mountainous quarter-final task against the All Blacks.
21:15 (AEDT), Sat 19th Oct @ Ajinomoto Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 31: New Zealand 28 V Ireland 2 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: November 17, 2018: Ireland 16 d New Zealand 9 at Aviva Stadium
Final thoughts: Ireland’s world No.1 ranking will count for little when they line up against the might of two-time defending Rugby World Cup champs New Zealand in the second quarter-final.
But the Irish underdogs will be aiming to draw upon the confidence of two recent wins over the All Blacks. After failing to beat the perennial heavyweight in their first 28 attempts, Ireland have downed ABs twice in their last three meetings.
They achieved a euphoric 40-29 win in Chicago in 2016 and grinded out a 16-9 result in Dublin last year. But both victories were at the end of long, gruelling seasons for the All Blacks, who should be at their absolute peak heading into the World Cup knockouts.
After a hard-fought, high-quality 23-13 win over South Africa, the All Blacks easily accounted for Canada (63-0) and Namibia (71-9). Their last pool game against Italy was cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis.
Ireland made an early statement with a 27-3 rout of Scotland, before crashing 19-12 to Japan. Wins over Russia (35-0) and Samoa (47-5) have done little to change the minds of the doubters.
ABs favour form, Ireland scramble for midfield replacement
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has opted for form over experience. Anton Lienert-Brown will partner Jack Goodhue in the centres, with Sonny Bill Williams on the bench. Champion fullback Ben Smith has been left out of the 23 altogether, with the Beauden Barrett-Richie Mo’unga combination retained and Jordie Barrett’s versatility preferred on the bench.
Irish centre Bundee Aki was ruled out through suspension, which sees Garry Ringrose start in the No.13.
Remarkably, the nations have met just once previously at a Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks powered to a 43-19 pool win in 1995. The last four Tests between the sides were decided by 1-12 margins – though three were in Ireland. New Zealand won five of the previous six encounters by 19-plus.
The All Blacks have won seven of their eight Rugby World Cup quarter-finals – with each victory by 12 points or more. In 2015 they massacred France 62-13. Astonishingly, Ireland have lost all six of their RWC quarter-finals, bounced out by Argentina last time around after being tipped to reach the final.
Ireland’s only chance appears to be tying New Zealand down in a dour, forward-dominated struggle. But – unlike the other occasions they have toppled the All Blacks – they don’t have the recent form on the board to pull it off.