Joe Schmidt admits Ireland’s maiden two victories over New Zealand have denied his side the element of surprise in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Ireland stunned New Zealand 40-29 in Chicago in November 2016, for their first-ever win over the All Blacks, in 111 years of trying.
Head coach Schmidt’s men then pulled off a first win over New Zealand in Dublin in November, with Jacob Stockdale’s try sealing a 16-9 Aviva Stadium triumph.
New Zealand have recalibrated their approach into a twin-playmaker system in part in the wake of those two Ireland losses, and Schmidt knows that could ultimately now leave the All Blacks an even tougher prospect this weekend.
Here's the Ireland team to play New Zealand in the quarter final on Saturday.— Irish Rugby (@IrishRugby) October 17, 2019
“We’re certainly not going to sneak up on them any more; we’re not going to surprise them,” said Schmidt.
“I think they are well aware of how we play and what they are going to do to combat that, and what they are going to put into their own armoury to make sure that we are chasing them about.
“But I wouldn’t be a great believer in that you learn more from your losses, you learn more from every experience.
“There are so many variables that go into a result in a Test match that I learn from every win, loss or draw that we have, just because you get that little bit more information about an individual player, or how this sequence works or how that defensive map went at that particular time.
“So I’ve got huge respect for Steve Hansen, Ian Foster, the full coaching staff.
“They can be creative around the lineout and the scrum, and there are a host of challenges for us.”
New Zealand are chasing an unprecedented third successive World Cup crown in Japan, and vastly-experienced boss Steve Hansen continues to favour starting Richie Mo’unga at fly-half and Beauden Barrett at full-back.
Barrett’s switch from fly-half leaves New Zealand boasting two natural playmakers in their starting backline, adding extra creative layers to an already hugely-threatening All Blacks attack.
Captain Kieran Read conceded the All Blacks adjusted their approach off the back of those two Ireland losses – and will now aim to crystallise any improvement by beating one of their most challenging opponents.
Asked if Saturday’s knockout clash is the chance to prove New Zealand have improved because of those two losses, Read replied: “That’s our aim, isn’t it? To play well this weekend. We’ll find out after the game.
“The Irish are a good side as well, a really good side. They perhaps haven’t played to their potential throughout this World Cup but in a World Cup final game it’s whoever turns up on the day and it could be just a couple of opportunities that present themselves on the day, for either side.
“In those couple of games, they’ve taken theirs and we haven’t so it will come down to that again.
“I think we’re in a good place to be at at this time in the tournament so I’m looking forward to that.”
Ireland in a good place but All Blacks built for knockout rugby