It’s meant to be a foregone conclusion. The All Blacks come to town, steamroll the natives, and leave.
It’s been the same storyline in each of the last 27 meetings between the two countries, and with the New Zealanders chasing a world record undefeated year, few people think that’s about to change.
But not all. Former Ireland and Munster legend Alan Quinlan feels some of Ireland’s more recent performances against the All Blacks raise hopes for an upset.
“I’ve been down in New Zealand a few times. In 2006, Ireland came really, really close,” he said at the launch of DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland’s new plans.
“I wasn’t togged out, but I was on the squad, and on the tour in Hamilton. I think for about 72 minutes, Ireland were leading the game and it was a fantastic performance. Then we go to 2008, it was quite close in Wellington as well. 2012 in Christchurch, Ireland should have won that game.
“They played fantastically well. Their application, their energy, their work-rate was amazing. There has been a few very close calls.”
Quinlan, who picked up 27 international caps during his career, has mixed memories of his first time playing against the All Blacks at Eden Park in June 2002, though, as he was sent to the sin-bin shortly after his introduction in a 40-8 defeat.
“I would have been pretty nervous. That was my first real involvement against the All Blacks. It was a new experience for me. I was pretty pumped up and I wanted to be physical.
“If you’re not psyched up to make your tackles and to meet them in the collisions, you are going to come off second best. It was a big regret. I was relishing the opportunity. Was quite nervous about it, and then to get sin-binned and to go off was a huge disappointment for me personally, but it affected the team. You need 15 people against the All Blacks. When you go down to 14 men, it’s that much more difficult.”
With the Steve Hansen-coached outfit on a winning run that stretches to 13 games, all form points towards a 14th consecutive All Blacks victory. Quinlan accepts this is a sensible conclusion, but despite also acknowledging the fear factor that comes with playing the All Blacks, he still believes Ireland have a chance this weekend.
“You always have to believe they’ve a chance. From a bookie’s point of view, New Zealand will win the game all day long, but as a player, and if you are involved in the coaching staff, you’ve got to believe that you have a chance.
“For sure, it’s going to be very, very difficult but I think they need to focus on themselves this week and try to bring a performance,” Quinlan added.
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