Ireland were unable to repeat the heroics of their famous victory in Chicago, as the All Blacks avenged that loss with a 21-9 win in front of 51 000 fans in Dublin. It was a bruising clash and Ireland now have injury concerns, while the All Blacks have two players cited for foul play.
Robbie Henshaw, CJ Stander and Rob Kearney suffered head knocks while Johnny Sexton has a hamstring injury. They face the Wallabies next, who are on a high from their 25-23 win over France.
Injuries are a concern for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who says it will make the few weeks of Test matches difficult to assess overall.
“Well, we’re going to potentially see some different personnel and it’s hard to assess a series when you go match by match because the personnel are quite different. Obviously, there was success against Canada in that there were a number of guys, I think the number of new caps was us trying to take an opportunity to have a bit of a look, and to work with a wider group.
“We’ll probably be afforded that opportunity to a degree again next week because we have guys who are knocked about. So, as far as looking at the overall series, if you had said to me before the series that you’d be two out of three going into the Wallabies, I probably would have taken it because that means we’d have to have beaten New Zealand in one of those two games.
“Considering we hadn’t done it in 30-odd times of trying in 111 years, you’d probably put your hand up and take one of those. As it is now, we weren’t that far away and I think there’s huge merit in the effort that the players put in,” he said.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said Ireland had to do more if they wanted another win.
“Whilst it wasn’t always pretty, we’ve got to be pretty happy with the result. If you want to beat the All Blacks, you’ve got to score more than nine points. It was a good Test match by both sides and plenty of attitude from both teams.”
Refererring to the citings of Sam Cane and Malakai Fekitoa, Hansen conceded one of them.
“Obviously the discipline has got to improve. The Rob Henshaw tackle was a head clash [with Cane]. I just reviewed it again there this morning and they have collided heads. It wasn’t a high tackle so he was knocked out as soon as they knocked heads, but Mala’s [Fekitoa] one was high.
“He just needs to have a look at that. It’s clumsy and it’s not the way we want to play. He will be spoken to but it was a physical Test match. That’s what you expect when you get two good sides playing each other.
“There was plenty of things on both sides. There was neck rolls and all sorts of things going on that were missed and that we could sit and complain about but when you get a physical Test match you get a physical Test match and that’s what it was. No quarter asked and no quarter given.”