Despite winning two of their last three encounters between the sides, Joe Schmidt’s Ireland side don’t possess a fear-factor for the All Blacks, as evidenced by the New Zealand rugby punditry’s views on tomorrow’s quarter-final.
Ireland’s stock has fallen since the beginning of the tournament, with a number of performances in Japan falling below their normal high standards, and the view in New Zealand is that the All Blacks won’t be troubled by the Irish challenge.
Radio New Zealand’s Hamish Bidwell predicted that New Zealand will win by “10 to 15 points” provided they can secure enough quick ball, adding that Ireland are “a spoiling team” and that “playing much actual rugby eludes them”.
“Conditions (will) suit athletes and players with skill and vision. New Zealand have an abundance and Ireland few, if any,” he said.
Former All Black scrum-half Justin Marshall termed Ireland “predictable”, saying that Joe Schmidt’s side are "a little laborious in the way they’ve been attacking”.
Marshall predicts that the All Blacks could “put some points on them and win quite comfortably”.
Another 15-point winning margin was predicted by Liam Hyslop of stuff.co.nz, who warns that the All Blacks “look in ominous form” and “should blow away an Ireland team which was simply overwhelmed by Japan in pool play”.
Zinzan Brooke, the former New Zealand no. 8, is so confident of an All Blacks win that he has looked ahead to a potential semi-final against England. “I do fear the England semi-final,” he said, adding that “if the two teams do meet, which I expect them to, it could come down to a toss of the coin on the day. Top sport is about close margins and I can’t see much between them.”
Speaking on the New Zealand Herald's 'Beyond the Game' Rugby World Cup show, former All Black and current coach of the Auckland Blues Leon MacDonald was confident that Steve Hansen's side would be well prepared.
"At some point, they were going to come across the Irish. [They'll be] very aware of their threat, lost to them twice, it'll be exciting," MacDonald said, before providing his prediction.
"I think they'll do it relatively comfortably, I think there are 20 points in it," he said, adding to the double-digit win predictions for New Zealand.
Providing a note of caution for All Blacks confidence is former captain Buck Shelford, who believes a strong start is crucial for Steve Hansen’s charges.
“What we don’t want is to give the Irish an early sniff, allow them to build a lead and then control the pace of the game,” he told the New Zealand Herald. “We need to start well, rattle them early and not let them recover.”
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