AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: New Zealand v Ireland

Irish fans could have had higher hopes for this World Cup a year or so ago but the quarter-finals have been their nemesis and they could find themselves heartbroken once again by New Zealand.

Those supporting the men in green can point realistically to a fine head to head record – at least recently – with the All Blacks, as Ireland have won two of their last three meetings. The first, an incredible 40-29 victory in America, broke a 111-year losing streak, and the latter came under just a year ago in the Autumn Internationals.

At that point, there was a legitimate argument to suggest the Irish, who had just won a Grand Slam and a series in Australia, were the best side in the world. However, since then, other sides have managed to catch up to the methods of Joe Schmidt and they have arguably been on a decline from those heady heights.

There’s no shame in that, but there have been some worrying signs over the past year. England managed to outspeed and overpower them in the 6 Nations at the Aviva, and Wales demolished them, with a late try – the only way they avoided not scoring a single point at all.

Their World Cup warm-ups are best avoided, but in the tournament we’ve seen two faces of the same Irish team; the one that didn’t score a point after the 22nd minute against Japan and eventually ended up being dominated by the hosts in the second half, or the brutally powerful outfit that dominated Japan (27-3) and Samoa (47-5).

Joe Schmidt and his men have to be hugely respected, and those winning performances remind us that when his side execute their game plan, they can be a real force to be reckoned with. Schmidt has also been able to select his entire first team, with Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray the starting halfbacks, Rob Kearney, Keith Earls, and Jacob Stockdale as the outside backs, Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw as the centres.

The pack that was so influential in those two victories is mainly united, with Cian Healy, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong in the front-row and Iain Henderson and James Ryan together again at lock, and major carriers in Peter O’Mahony, Josh van der Flier and CJ Stander.

All of those names either beat New Zealand in 2016, 2018 or both, so a case can be made.

However, the majority of those players were also well beaten by England and Wales, along with their defeat against Japan, and the All Blacks will of course take more beating at a neutral venue.

New Zealand v Ireland
Rugby World Cup 2019
Quarter-Final 2
Tokyo Stadium, Tokyo
Saturday, October 12
11.15am Kick-Off (UK Time)
Live on ITV1 HD & ITV Hub, RTE2 and EIR Sport

(Maximum 10 matches, Since 2000)
NOV 2018 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 16-9 New Zealand
NOV 2016 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 9-21 New Zealand
NOV 2016 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 40-29 New Zealand
NOV 2013 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 22-24 New Zealand
JUN 2012 IRELAND TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND New Zealand 60-0 Ireland
JUN 2012 IRELAND TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND New Zealand 22-19 Ireland
JUN 2012 IRELAND TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND New Zealand 42-10 Ireland
NOV 2010 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 18-38 New Zealand
JUN 2010 IRISH TOUR OF NEW ZEALAND New Zealand 66-28 Ireland
NOV 2008 AUTUMN INTERNATIONALS Ireland 3-22 New Zealand

The All Blacks have had only one real test this tournament, but the way they blitzed tournament second-favourites South Africa with 17 points in five minutes was a stern enough reminder of their quality, especially given that they’d been under major pressure earlier.

The All Blacks also held off a stern fightback from the Springboks in the second half too in what was brilliant preparation for knockout rugby.

They haven’t had a test since, with wins against Canada (63-0) and Namibia (71-9) being perfectly routine, and there’s a slight worry that they could be undercooked, although Steve Hansen has played strong sides in those encounters. Ben Smith, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue George Bridge, Aaron Smith, Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, and Ardie Savea all started against Namibia and many of the bench players have also made the 22 for this encounter.

Ireland’s best chance – for all they are not just grinders – could well be to make this game similar to their last victory over New Zealand. Outstanding defence, multiple phases, a very strong set piece, a remorseless kicking game and heavy runners trying to unbalance the All Black defence.

They are capable of doing so and the high humidity in Tokyo – along with potential for rain – should help, but the way New Zealand put the squeeze on for South Africa suggests the All Blacks will be prepared for that approach and if they can keep a hold of the ball they’ve got the raw quality to make it three semi-finals in a row. The last three meetings have seen one win apiece for both sides by 11 points and an Irish win by seven points, and New Zealand ten-point winners over South Africa – can just about beat that mark. If this is a particularly heavy encounter, then it’s entirely possible that Kieran Read could get back onto the try scoring sheets and the 7/2 for him to score a try appeals.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK New Zealand to win by 11-20 points 2 pts at 5/2 with
BACK Kieran Read to score a try at anytime 1 pt at 7/2 with

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