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Match Preview: All Blacks head into quarter-final as underdogs against Ireland for the first time ever

BY Jack Tunney  ·  Friday Oct 13, 2023

Ireland will arrive at the Stade de France on Saturday prepared for the biggest match in the nation’s history, as they look to disarm the All Blacks in an attempt to make their first-ever World Cup semi-final. 

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This will be arguably the first time that the All Blacks will need to stand tall as underdogs – not just against Ireland, but possibly in any test match in recent history.

What: Rugby World Cup – Quarter Final

Who: Ireland vs New Zealand

When: 14/10/2023 – 21:00 local time

Where: Stade de France, Saint-Denis

Team News:

Ireland: Despite a series of concerns surrounding certain players carrying knocks, it appears that all is now well in the camp as they put out an almost full strength side for their biggest match of the tournament.

Mack Hansen had to skip a portion of this week’s training due to a calf issue, but with heavy strapping he is now ready to start. On the opposite wing, James Lowe has successfully recuperated from an eye injury. Sadly for Ireland, James Ryan won’t be able to participate due to a hand injury  which has instead allowed for Ulster captain Iain Henderson to take his place once again in the second row.

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Two alterations have been made to the Ireland bench as Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien have been enlisted, as a result of experienced backs Robbie Henshaw and Keith Earls not meeting the fitness criteria for selection.

New Zealand: The mighty All Blacks find themselves with a fully fit side once again, fresh off the back of a two week break and a thumping of Italy.

They have omitted wing Mark Telea from the lineup due to a breach of team protocol. Head coach Ian Foster has reinstated Ethan de Groot, Ardie Savea, Aaron Smith, Rieko Ioane, and the Barrett siblings, Scott and Beauden.

Line ups:

Ireland: Keenan; Hansen, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe; Sexton (capt), Gibson-Park; Porter, Sheehan, Furlong; Beirne, Henderson; O’Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Kelleher, Kilcoyne, Bealham, McCarthy, Conan, Murray, Crowley, O’Brien.

New Zealand: B Barrett; Jordan, Ioane, J Barrett, Fainga’anuku; Mo’unga, Smith; De Groot, Taylor, Lomax, Retallick, S Barrett, Frizell, Cane, Savea.

Replacements: Coles, Williams, Newell, Whitelock, Papali’i, Christie, McKenzie, Lienert-Brown.

Words from the camps:

Ireland – Johnny Sexton: “I’ve had some great battles against New Zealand over the years. What you learn is that every game is as tough as the last no matter what the result is.

“That’s what we’re preparing for. We’re preparing for the toughest game we’ve ever faced and we’re trying to put ourselves in a frame of mind that we’re going to be ready for it.

“We’ve worked on our mental game for the past four years and put ourselves in different scenarios to prepare for this.

“Each quarter-final that we’ve haven’t got through, or we haven’t got through our pool, they’ve all been different and it’s a different group [of players] again. Each of those groups lost once – it wasn’t the same group losing quarter-finals year after year.

“If it was club rugby it would probably be a bigger hurdle. I don’t think we’ve carrying much baggage – it’s a one-off game we’re preparing for now.”

New Zealand – Aaron Smith: “They’re a great team, they’re the best team in the world, they’ve earned that. But we’re at a World Cup and it’s all on the line.

“History’s history, and history’s going to get created on Saturday, and we’ll see who comes out on top.

Last year matters in the sense of taking the learnings but I believe we’re a totally different team to July last year.

“We got new coaches and, as a group, that series really galvanised us. I can’t wait to see what happens.”

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Key match up:

Bundee Aki vs Jordie Barrett

Bundee Aki has been one of the stars of the tournament. He propelS the Irish line forward on every charge, breaking tackle after tackle and causing disruption wherever he plants his heavy feet. Aki has since become the prime powerful runner in the Irish side.

It will be his opposite number, Jordie Barrett, that will prove to be an important cog in the All Black machine if the Kiwi’s are to succeed. It will be up to Barrett to ensure that his opposite number cannot build the momentum he has done so freely in previous matches. Barrett’s distribution and kicking prowess will need to be near perfect if the All Blacks are to avoid an embarrassing quarter final exit.

Stats:

Prediction:

Ireland 38 – 21 New Zealand

Ireland have proven themselves to be the most complete side in all of world rugby over the past two years – their record speaks for itself.

The only three sides that can really open the Irish up is France, New Zealand or South Africa, with the first two sides benefitting from an attacking style that even the very best in the world cannot deal with. The problem New Zealand could face is  in their own ranks. Their defence has been shown to be short of the necessary requirements to deal with a team with as much cohesion as Ireland.

The game will likely flip some side to side throughout the match, but Ireland will noticeably remain in control as points are exchanged. With the match becoming more desperate towards the end of the game, the familiar Irish players will be able to reply upon their learned knowledge of each other to ensure that all gaps are closed off, and chances taken.

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