Ireland look set to meet the All Blacks again after Joe Schmidt revealed the world champions have been lined up for next November’s autumn internationals, writes Simon Lewis.
Schmidt signed off on the 2017 Guinness Series at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night with a third victory in three weeks as Ireland defeated Argentina 28-19 in Dublin but the head coach said he was open to a repeat of his side’s 2016 November schedule of four games next season as he puts his squad on a World Cup footing 10 months out from the tournament in Japan.
That 2016 series saw Ireland play the All Blacks twice having added an extra date at the start of the month, taking them to Chicago for a historic match which saw New Zealand defeated for the first time in 111 years of trying.
Ireland returned to Dublin after that and played tier-two nation Canada before a rematch with the All Blacks that turned into a bruising revenge victory for Steve Hansen’s formidable side.
A fourth and final Test in the international window came a week later against Australia, with the Wallabies beaten to round out a year marked for the first time by wins over all three Southern Hemisphere big guns.
A fourth match in four weeks would offer a simulation of a World Cup pool schedule but whether or not that transpires, and there have been reports that the Dutch port of Rotterdam is a prospective host city, Ireland look likely to face the All Blacks once more in 2018.
“I think we’ve got Argentina and New Zealand,” Schmidt said of the plans for next November. “You never know the tier two (opposition) until later but I think it is Argentina and New Zealand.”
The Ireland boss said the plan was “at this stage” for a three-game series next year but then indicated he might be persuaded to add a fourth, perhaps if that extra game was at the start of the month rather than the end, as was the case in 2016.
“We’ll always get asked for a fourth game. We are very conscious of looking after the provinces as well. Wales playing next week (against South Africa) the week before Europe, I think it makes it very tough for their regional teams leading into Europe. It is a little bit of a compromise.
“We haven’t had a formal request from anyone yet but if there is one, as we got for the match in Chicago, then we’d consider it if it comes up and we’d try and stay in touch with the provincial coaches and see if we can make it work.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner