The final chapter of one of test rugby’s greatest rivalries in recent years will be written at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday night.

Some rugby romantics would love nothing better than to dab at moist eyes with a bottle of sherry at their elbows as New Zealanders Steve Hansen and Joe Schmidt attempt to outwit each other during the World Cup final in Yokohama early next month.

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All Blacks coach Steve Hansen hands his Ireland rival Joe Schmidt money for match tickets before their teams clashed in Dublin last November.

The bad news is they’re not going to get their wish. Not even close.

Come Saturday night, either Hansen or Schmidt will be forced to head back to his hotel room and start packing a suitcase.

Both have experienced the disappointment of being knocked out of the quarterfinals at these tournaments. 

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Ireland coach Joe Schmidt (left) chats with All Blacks coaches Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Scott McLeod before the test in Dublin last November.

Hansen was in charge of Wales when they were sent packing by England in Brisbane at the 2003 World Cup, and Schmidt went the same way when Ireland got done over by Argentina in Cardiff four years ago.

Not that Hansen, who will finish up soon after the World Cup, is thinking too closely about retiring his All Blacks blazer or much else for that matter.

He just wants to zero in on Ireland and not allow anything else to blur his focus.

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Steve Hansen’s side take on the team that’s beaten them twice in their past three clashes.

“I’m not worried about my All Black career, I’m more concerned that we earn the right to come back on Monday,” Hansen said. “What will be, will be.

“You know that when you step up to this tournament. We have earned the right to get to the knockout stage, and now we have to earn the right to stay here.”

Schmidt has every right to feel proud about his record against the All Blacks.

Having coached against his fellow New Zealanders on four occasions, he has secured two wins and two defeats since starting the job in 2013.

The most recent was last November when the Irish upset the All Blacks 16-9 in Dublin, the first time they had defeated the world champions on the Republic’s soil.

Two years earlier Ireland beat the All Blacks 40-29 in Chicago, recording their first-ever win.

A look into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals as the field is down to the last eight in Japan.

Schmidt’s ability to extract the best out of his players, and give them a game plan that suits their skills, won’t be lost on Hansen.

Does Hansen enjoy attempting to outwit Schmidt?

“Yeah, but no more than anyone else,” he said. “That’s what I am saying. It’s why we concentrate on ourselves. It’s our coaching group, it’s our management group and our group of players getting our week right.”

There was a nice moment before the game in Dublin, when Hansen traded cash for match tickets from Schmidt.

After the game Hansen explained that he had contacted his fellow Kiwi prior to the tour to arrange access to the game for family and friends, and was paying him back.

The All Blacks will aim to deliver a different kind of payback at Tokyo Stadium.

That is expected to involve the aggressive Irish forwards motoring into contact, having halfback Conor Murray hoist box kicks and give playmaker Johnny Sexton chances to call the correct plays at the crucial moments.

“They are pretty set on how they play, just like we are. They play to their strengths. Conor Murray does a lot of kicking, and they used Sexton to drive them around the park and their big forward to carry.
“Why would they want to change? That has been very succcessful for them.”

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