New Zealand read Ireland like a book

New Zealand read Ireland like a book
Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo'unga ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

It's been hailed as the best All Blacks performance since the last World Cup. Some are saying it was as close to perfection as you can come in the game of rugby. What everyone agrees on is the fact that New Zealand made one hell of a statement on Saturday night.

All of which may or may not be true. This was a magnificent concert of power and precision and pace from a side that is now 160 minutes away from winning a third straight World Cup and yet how can we not judge it in the context of an appalling Irish performance?

Plenty of Ireland's problems were imposed by the southern hemisphere side but far too many of the basic errors committed by the men in green were simply inexcusable at this level and beneath a side that should have been peaking for this very game.

Dejected Ireland players ©INPHO/Billy Stickland
Dejected Ireland players ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Joe Schmidt continued to fight against the notion that Ireland have stood still after the game but his side have actually gone backwards at a rate of knots. The personnel was almost the same here as last November when the teams met and the system and style hadn't changed a jot.

“We knew what Ireland were going to come with and we had this whole week to prepare ourselves,” said Ardie Savea whose switch to blindside flanker this year is just one example of the lateral thinking employed there. “There were no surprises with what was thrown our way."

That's a damning assessment and one all too familiar to anyone who follows the fortunes of the Republic of Ireland's football team as well. This is a team that needs new ideas and it will be interesting to see if Andy Farrell is a man to provide them.

He will need to.

For all their undoubted abilities and success under Schmidt there has always been a suspicion that Ireland don't do well chasing games and asking this side to run down a 22-0 half-time deficit against the All Blacks was never going to be a realistic ask.

New Zealand knew as much.

"We've learned from our previous games against them and it was about us taking those learnings and performing well tonight,” said Beauden Barrett who, like his two brothers, was playing just days after the passing of his grandfather Ted.

“We thought if we stick some points on in the first 20 it would help the outcome of the game, challenge Ireland and how they would play being behind on the scoreboard. Thankfully our start allowed us to do that."

They knew that the two losses to Ireland had owed their roots to the fact that they had been beaten up front in Chicago and Dublin but they were utterly dominant in that department here. And these are forwards who can be piano players as well as piano shifters.

It made for a long and hard night for the Irish.

New Zealand read Ireland like a book

But England will not make it so easy. Eddie Jones' side side has brushed both Argentina (with 14 men) and Australia aside so far and yet they still give the impression that there is plenty more in the tank as they face into the semi-final against the world champions.

They will ask considerably more, and harder, questions of this evolving Kiwi side than Ireland. We will know for sure this time next week how combinations which are still in their infancy are actually bedding down and whether a fourth title beckons.

“It’s a semi-final,” said Richie Mo'unga who was sensational at ten on Saturday. “I haven’t seen the England-Australia game – we will look at that on Monday – but it’s going to be a big test match. All test matches in the Rugby World Cup are never easy, so we won’t be taking it lightly.

“It’s not very hard (to get up for another game) when you have a good plan in place. It’s not hard when you have family who have travelled from around the world to come watch you play. It means we can reset as sons, fathers and partners.

“We can get away from footy and come back Monday with a lot of excitement for what’s ahead.”

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