Rob Kearney was part of the first Ireland team to get the better of New Zealand and the full-back reckons the All Blacks are still beatable.
The Leinster man has been keeping a close eye on the World champions as they got the defence of their Rugby Championship title off to the perfect start with two wins from two against Australia in Tests in Sydney and Auckland, both times running in six tries.
Steven Hansen’s men visit Dublin in just over two and half months and Kearney, a stand-out performer when Ireland won 40-29 in Chicago in 2016, is impressed with what he has seen so far.
“They were very good,” the 32-year-old four-time Six Nations winner told RTE Sport.
“I thought Australia probably coughed up a huge amount of ball.
“They defended very well in the first half and then any sort of turnover the All Blacks got, they just ran away with it, [the Aussies were] a little bit careless with the ball.”
Only Australia and the Lions have defeated the back-to-back World Cup winners since that game in November 2016 and Kearney smiled when asked if they were still beatable. “Very…ish,” he replied.
Absent that day in the USA was Sean O’Brien, deemed not match-fit by Joe Schmidt, but the Leinster flanker has tasted victory over the world number one ranked side as part of the Lions team in 2017.
The All Blacks’ wins over Michael Cheika’s Wallabies didn’t come as any surprise to O’Brien, who missed Ireland’s Grand Slam run and Test series victory over the Aussies with a shoulder injury, is an admirer.
Speaking at the launch of Leinster’s new innovation partnership with BearingPoint, the Carlow man said: “We saw at the weekend their energy when they turn the ball over, it’s a score every time.
“When you cough up ball very easily they punish you, it’s nothing we don’t know already.
“They have so much talent coming through their system and they have such a good game plan.”