Friday , April 23 2021

All blacks against Ireland: Ireland digs deep to aim at the top of the world



The border issue raging all over Ireland does not concern politics without sport, its focus is on whether Joe Schmidt's side can exceed established limits and claim to be the best team in the world.

Although the official ranking will have New Zealand at the top of the tree, irrelevant of the outcome at Aviva Stadium. Even though All Blacks will go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 10 months as favorites, given the dominance of their appearances since the previous tournament.

Everything to be put on one side, just footnotes to the big debate. This game is about cementing the list of true challengers, determining real possibilities, to see if Ireland is done by the right things. This is an opportunity to reach out and draw a new horizon.

They have the ability. As a Grand Slam champion in Europe and on a record of a record 10 successive wins at home, their credentials are impeccable. Yet they have only hit New Zealand once in 113 years. The case still needs to be proved. Sunday morning (NZ time) is the time.

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New Zealand certainly sees it in this regard: No. 1 ranked team No. 2, a heavyweight promoter's dream invoice, first-rate entertainment.

All Black coach Steve Hansen says he is ready for some surprises from Ireland.

PHOTO SPORT

All Black coach Steve Hansen says he is ready for some surprises from Ireland.

All Blacks are also aware that they face yet another hard investigation of their own status as well as endurance towards the end of a drainage year on rugby's international treadmill. Steve Hansen, head coach, has been here many times before and has witnessed the increased ferocity that the opponents routinely manage to get to the occasion.

"Everyone we play has played in their lives against us because we are the team they want to beat and they stand up for it," said Hansen. "They play 10 percent better from get-go."

As a provisional England side showed last week, the opposition knows deeply that if they do not break the heights, they risk being shredded. England took the initiative but could not see it through.

The commitment of the TV match official, England, did not have the peace or knowledge of closing the game because All Blacks made so exciting in Dublin five years ago when they won the match with a Ryan Crotty, trying deeply into the time.

Ireland has suffered at the sharp end, Ireland is fully aware of such painful events.

Devin Toner is a key player for Ireland.

AP

Devin Toner is a key player for Ireland.

"You're on the toes more in an All Black week," recalled tree-lumber Devin Toner, charged with fixing a wrong Ireland's line-out. "You expect more, on the edge more."

If it is true for Ireland, that's the case for New Zealand. They can claim that they are so before each test match and pay full tribute to the legacy of the black shirt. But there are opponents and there are opponents. Ireland is acting evenly, an established strength in itself, once again wins over All Blacks, winning 40-29 in Chicago 2016. This is a competition with superfina margins, so much so that Schmidt, usually such a stickler for precision, saying that "any old victory would do, I would take 3-0".

This is a game where results are crucial, not performance. Of course, it will not happen first, but the latter for New Zealand standards rarely drops. Schmidt has also trained his men within an inch of perfection.

It is not only the entire rugby population in Ireland who will study Schmidt's efforts, so there will be huge fluctuations of people in the early hours of Sunday morning 12,000 miles away in New Zealand. Schmidt is favored in many people's eyes to succeed Hansen in the wake of next year's Rugby World Cup, although Hansen's long-standing right man, Ian Foster, may have some things to say about it.

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The two locks play their 50th test against Ireland this weekend.

Schmidt is famous for his careful planning. Although Hansen believes that his kiwi will have "a trick or two" up in the sleeve, the reality is that Ireland is playing for strict patterns. As Hansen noted, they hold the ball longer than any other team and want to "choke" you. But it does not tell the whole story. Far from.

Ireland has lots of opportunistic talents in its joints, whether it's Garry Ringrose's feet in the middle or the fast motion that is the wing Jacob Stockdale. Of course, the absence of scrumhalf Conor Murray and center Robbie Henshaw is a loss and recall yesterday by the flank Dan Leavy, to be replaced by Josh van der Flier, is a further disturbance. But Ireland is deep and looks ready to take the game to All Blacks.

Aaron Smith becomes the most capped All Blacksback when he starts against Ireland.

PETER MEECHAM / STUFF

Aaron Smith becomes the most capped All Blacksback when he starts against Ireland.

Toner's role in playing is key, marching his own men and trying to disturb the challenging New Zealand duo by Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, who plays their 50th test together. Schmidt has full faith in Toner's abilities after selecting him several times – 55 out of 60 tests – than any other player. Sunday is the repayment period.

After losing to South Africa this year and flying twice through pipsqueak margins against Springboks and England, it could be an air of vulnerability about All Blacks but it's a relative. Damian McKenzie was iffy sometimes at Twickenham but a world banner on others.

Ireland knows they will be in force, but in Andy Farrell they have a defense club that has helped to overcome the victory three times over All Blacks (with England, Ireland and Lions) in the last six years.

New Zealand must be on top to win Ireland in the same way. It is a summit of gender equality.


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