Whatever the result in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, history will be made.
Either the All Blacks will put the seal on an unbeaten season — a first for a major nation in the pro era — or Ireland will produce the mother of all upsets and claim a first ever win against a side some reckon to be the finest in history.
The tourists were asked about both records yesterday, one of them imminent, the other ominous, but the truth is that such matters barely seem to register as they thunder through one opponent after another.
Three of their touring party were quizzed on matters external for a good half-hour yesterday: on Ireland, on their hopes of ending 2013 unbeaten and on the wear and tear of the season to date. The bottom line? Whatever, mate.
The All Blacks treat everyone equally in that they look down on every opponent from a position of statistical and mental superiority and in the knowledge that all will be well if they do their job as they know only they can.
“This is the next game and we want a great performance so that, quite frankly, is where our motivation comes from,” said assistant coach Ian Foster. “It is actually irrelevant, in some ways, who we play.
“The problem with (outside motivations) is it is temporary. What happens if you haven’t got the occasion or whatever? All of a sudden you have given yourself the excuse not to perform properly.”
That well-oiled Kiwi machine has performed supremely in 2013. All-comers have been defeated and yet there was Foster yesterday ruminating on how they were still “chasing a great performance” on this tour.
They may be missing Dan Carter for this one but their reserves are like none other and they arrived on these shores in surprisingly fine fettle physically despite the rigours of an almost completed full season behind them.
“A lot of the guys have been managed well time-wise,” said Foster who had no update on prop Tony Woodcock’s hamstring. “A couple of them have got a few dings and been given a few weeks off but we are in really good health. We are feeling strong and, with great work done by our medics, we have got just about everyone to pick from, (Carter) excluded. We are in good heart so all questions about complacency or fatigue are out the window.”
Ireland’s failure to have ever bettered New Zealand is wheeled out time and again and the injury list in Carton House hardly makes for comforting thoughts ahead of this latest attempt.
Neither does the most recent meeting with the All Blacks: that 60-0 defeat in June of last year when the brownie points earned in an agonising second Test three-point loss were yanked back in no uncertain fashion.
Foster, to give him his due, was nothing but respectful of Ireland when asked specifically about the ins and outs of this week’s game and he attempted to put that Hamilton rout into a more rounded context.
“They were tired at that point and they had put a lot of energy into those first two Test matches at the end of a very long (World Cup) season,” said Foster who was Chiefs coach for eight years before joining the All Blacks.
“So, the more accurate barometer of that tour was the first and second Tests. It was a very even tour until the last Test blew it out a bit but I don’t think it’ll have any bearing (this weekend).”
Probably not, but the same can hardly be said for last week’s game at the Aviva Stadium, when Ireland fluffed their lines against an Australia side that had 17 points to spare and claimed four tries against none by their hosts.
“I guess they are finding their feet under a new coaching regime. They performed pretty well against Samoa because it is not easy doing what they did against them so I’d imagine they would be pretty happy with that step forward. Clearly they caught an Australian team that was pretty fired up and did some quite good things so they will have learned some lessons. They are going through a period of change.” Not a great time to be doing it, though. Not with these guys in town.
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