Ireland’s defence coach Andy Farrell says the All Blacks won’t relish playing his side in the quarter-finals in Tokyo next weekend.
The All Blacks are the world’s No 1 ranked team and back-to-back world champions. And they are odds-on to make it a hat-trick of titles in three weeks’ time. But Ireland have beaten them twice in their past three encounters.
Farrell is not alone in thinking that may be at the back of their minds before Saturday.
Ireland must face Steve Hansen’s team after Japan came through a dramatic test against Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday to qualify as Pool A winners. But Farrell, who takes over from Joe Schmidt as Ireland head coach after the tournament, said his team had nothing to fear and would be better for beating Samoa 47-5 on Saturday, rather than having a weekend off as the All Blacks did.
“I certainly think so,” he said when asked whether Ireland would benefit from the run-out. “We’d like to think that nobody thinks it’s nice playing against Ireland. We’ll certainly be hard to beat.”
Ireland have never made it past the last eight at a World Cup. But Farrell said there was no reason they could not break through this time, denying they felt the “weight of history” on their shoulders.
“Not at all,” he said. “Honestly, it wouldn’t be anyone’s thinking within the management, never mind the playing group. Not for one second. Because there’s a job to do and we’ll give it our best shot.”
Ireland ended the group stages on a high, running in seven tries against Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday. They secured the bonus point before half time thanks to tries from Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and two from Johnny Sexton. And despite Bundee Aki’s red card Jordan Larmour, CJ Stander and Andrew Conway added further scores after the break.
Schmidt said Ireland were in a better place heading into the knockout stages this time than four years ago, when they lost a host of key players following a bruising pool encounter with France.
Despite the loss of Aki to a three-week ban, Ireland start the biggest week in their history in a good place. Asked how Ireland could beat the All Blacks, Farrell smiled. “You’ve got to score points,” he said.
“You’ve got to take your game to them and I think we’ve been able to do it in the past.”
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