Despite squandering a number of chances against the All Blacks, Ireland still managed to outperform every side that faced Steve Hansen’s men this year, according to former England international Jeremy Guscott.
Guscott believes Ireland could have been more clinical in the red zone last Saturday but their “superb” work rate shone through, even when the injuries were stacked against them.
“A couple of tries really did go begging - that is the difference when playing a team with New Zealand’s class between winning and losing,” he told BBC. “Ireland showed you can’t make any mistakes and have to take every chance.
“However, it was still an outstanding show by Ireland, they did better than most teams over the past 12 months. The hosts saw players forced off and they were deep into their reserves, yet everybody came on and no-one let anyone down.”
The former Lions centre believes Joe Schmidt has unearthed a true talent in Garry Ringrose, while his all-action Leinster team mate Josh van der Flier was “sensational” on Saturday. Jamie Heaslip, meanwhile, looked “reborn”.
“Heaslip has been quite average for the past couple of seasons - England’s Billy Vunipola and Wales’ Taulupe Faletau have both superseded him - but this time I saw him running with the ball and making more metres than normal, which is great.”
Guscott sees an Ireland side that have made commendable strides since last year’s Rugby World Cup disappointment. They failed to live with the All Blacks’ intensity, however, and the 51 year-old urges referees to keep an eye on New Zealand’s “reputation” for high tackles in the future, after several neck-high challenges weren’t punished accordingly at the Aviva Stadium.
“World champions New Zealand play everything at an incredible intensity. They understand the laws of the game, where the boundaries are and how the referee might react. They use it to their advantage.” Guscott wrote “Referees need to look harder at New Zealand .”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved