Steve Hansen insists quality and not quantity is the vital factor when it comes to experience after seeing New Zealand’s young guns blast Ireland out of the World Cup.
Joe Schmidt opted to pick his tried and trusted campaigners for the quarter-final showdown in Tokyo but saw them wilt as the All Blacks ran riot with a 46-14 win – Ireland’s worst ever defeat in the tournament.
The Kiwi could have played in-form players like Rhys Ruddock and Jordan Larmour. But instead he chose to go with veterans Peter O’Mahony and Rob Kearney, while 37-year-old Rory Best also started in what turned out to be a painful final game before retiring.
Hansen also had a choice to make himself but opted to go with the youthful exuberance of Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown in the centres ahead of more established campaigners Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
🗣"I'd like to publicly acknowledge Rory & Joe Schmidt. Both of them have been instrumental in changing Ireland into a team that, earlier in the year, were No. 1 in the world."@AllBlacks coach Steve Hansen speaks after the quarter-final win over Ireland.#RWC2019 #NZLvIRE pic.twitter.com/z0YZRqSBsa— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 19, 2019
It proved to be the right call but Hansen insisted it was no gamble as his side again denied the Irish a first taste of semi-final action.
He said: “Experience is a funny thing. What is it they’ve experienced? That’s the test.
“A lot of our guys have been involved in championship winning teams in Super Rugby and in big moments and that’s why you select them.
“Their enthusiasm, excitement and ability to play the game in a formula is really important.
“Everyone was talking about how many Ireland had. Half of our 23 had played in a knockout match and won it.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful here but Ireland’s experience was of not winning, and we had 11 guys with experience of winning. That’s why you’ve got to be careful when you talk about experience.”
Aaron Smith gave the All Blacks the perfect start by scoring twice inside the opening 20 minutes.
Beauden Barrett, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett all bagged tries too as the relentless All Blacks booked a semi-final showdown with Eddie Jones’ England in Yokohama on Saturday, October 26.
“They’ll (England) be a massive challenge, but we’ll enjoy our moment,” said Hansen. “We won’t think about England until tomorrow.”
The defeat brings down the curtain on Schmidt’s six-and-a-half year Ireland reign in the most brutal fashion.
The 54-year-old led his side to three Six Nations titles but failed to negotiate a way past the last eight of the World Cup from two attempts and he admits his latest disappointment had hit him hard.
Schmidt, whose team crashed out to Argentina in the quarters four years ago, said: “You tend to carry your scars a lot more than your successes and those scars are deep. That’s why I’m a little bit broken.
“I think when I get some distance to reflect on maybe 75 Test matches and we’ve won 74 per cent of them, there’s been some incredibly good days. I don’t think they get washed away by two defeats (in this World Cup).
“I felt we had good reason four years ago when we lost our leadership before the quarter-final.
“Today, we just met a team who I think are number one in the world for a reason. If you’re not on the money you’re going to be incredibly disappointed and I am.”