Match details: All Blacks vs Ireland, Saturday 19 October, 11.15pm (NZT), Tokyo Stadium.
Won: All Blacks 28, Ireland 2, Drawn 1
Last time: All Blacks 9, Ireland 16 (17 November 2018)
Referee: Nigel Owens
FIT AND READY
Although it has been almost two weeks since the All Blacks last played due to the cancellation of their game against Italy, coach Steve Hansen sees the positive with all 31 players fit and in contention for selection. “We feel we’ve selected a great mixture of talent in our 23, who are in great form, and the squad includes many players who have a lot of Rugby World Cup knockout match experience. Together with our experienced management team, that brings a deep understanding of what is needed to get the job done,” Hansen said.
There are intriguing battles across the park but nowhere more so than at halfback/first five-eighth. Ireland pair Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton will become Ireland’s most cap inside-half pairing on Saturday, over-taking Ronan O’Gara and Peter Stringer when they combine for the 56th time at Test level. The All Blacks pairing of Aaron Smith and Richie Mo’unga don’t have that level of experience together but have quickly become a lethal duo in the black jersey. Both Murray and Sexton possess impressive tactical games and know the perfect time to ignite their exciting outside backs. Smith and Mo’unga will look to play the game at pace and keep the tempo high throughout the full 80 minutes.
ROAD TO THE PLAYOFFS
The All Blacks topped Pool B by virtue of wins over South Africa, Canada and Namibia and a technical draw with Italy due to Typhoon Hagibis. Ireland were expected to top Pool A but came unstuck against Japan 19-12 to qualify in second place. Although the All Blacks are unbeaten, match-fitness maybe a concern given they haven’t played since October 6. Ireland’s last match was the impressive 47-5 win over Samoa on October 12 where they played the majority of the game with 14 players.
Over the past half-decade, Ireland has risen to become one of the All Blacks fiercest rivals. After falling to a 60-0 loss at Waikato Stadium in 2012, the record stands at two wins each in the following four Test matches. In 2013, it took an extra-time try for the All Blacks to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat before Ireland finally got their first Test win over New Zealand in Chicago in 2016. The All Blacks won the return Test in Dublin 21-9 two weeks later before Ireland flipped the tables on the All Blacks in November 2018 with a rugged 16-9 win.
The All Blacks have scored 157 points so far at the Rugby World Cup 2019 (second overall). Ireland have scored 121 points (fifth overall). South Africa lead the tournament on points scored (185) and tries (27).
The All Blacks and Ireland have only met one time previously at the Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks winning 43-19 in 1995.
TEAMS (caps in brackets):
1: Joe Moody (43) 2: Codie Taylor (48) 3: Nepo Laulala (23) 4: Brodie Retallick (78) 5: Samuel Whitelock (115) 6: Ardie Savea (42) 7: Sam Cane (65) 8: Kieran Read - captain (124) 9: Aaron Smith (89) 10: Richie Mo’unga (14) 11: George Bridge (7) 12: Anton Lienert-Brown (40) 13: Jack Goodhue (11) 14: Sevu Reece (5) 15: Beauden Barrett (80)
Reserves: 16: Dane Coles (66) 17: Ofa Tuungafasi (33) 18: Angus Ta'avao (11) 19: Scott Barrett (33) 20: Matt Todd (23) 21: T J Perenara (62) 22: Sonny Bill Williams (55) 23: Jordie Barrett (14)
1. Cian Healy (94) 2. Rory Best (capt - 123 caps) 3. Tadhg Furlong (40) 4. Iain Henderson (52)
5. James Ryan (22) 6. Peter O’Mahony (63) 7. Josh van der Flier (22) 8. CJ Stander (37) 9. Conor Murray (77) 10. Johnny Sexton (87) 11. Jacob Stockdale (24) 12. Robbie Henshaw (39) 13. Garry Ringrose (28) 14. Keith Earls (81) 15. Rob Kearney (94)
Reserves: 16. Niall Scannell (19) 17. Dave Kilcoyne (35) 18. Andrew Porter (22) 19. Tadhg Beirne (12) 20. Rhys Ruddock (25) 21. Luke McGrath (18) 22. Joey Carbery (21) 23. Jordan Larmour (20)