WITH Saturday night rugby fever shooting up a notch or two this past weekend, the meeting of Ireland and New Zealand in Paris this Saturday (8pm) will take centre stage.
Three-time winners of the Webb Ellis Cup, the All Blacks have a proud record, but will they be the ones who can break a possible 18th win in succession by their opponents?
Since it was founded in 1987, Ireland have reached the quarter final of the competition on seven occasions: losing to Australia in 1991, France in 1995, Argentina in 1999, France again in 2003, to ales in 2011, Argentina in 2015, and a heavy loss (46-14) to New Zealand in 2019.
However, these are different times.
Ireland have found a winning formula, brought in a reliable coaching team, and relied on some highly successful Leinster talent, and the cream of the provinces to build a squad that has no inhibitions or fear of any side on the planet.
After decades of defeats at the hands of New Zealand, it is surely payback time for the Irish in a few days’ time.
There are a few injuries after the no holds barred battle with Scotland but the strength and depth on the bench is such that nothing has been left to chance. Ireland have targeted this World Cup for the last four years.
Reaching the quarter final was their initial task, Ireland have no inhibitions and Andy Farrell’s team no longer hold the All Blacks in awe.
Such is the high level of technology in sport these days, the cameras can pick up off the ball incidents like Peter O’Mahony’s embrace of Finn Russell after the final whistle with ease. There were obviously no hard feelings after a couple of skirmishes and ‘verbals’ between the two during the 80 minutes.
O’Mahony had the backing of his colleagues with his provincial colleague Dave Kilcoyne describing the 100-cap star as “the heart of Munster and Ireland rugby” and Andrew Porter adding that “he’s the lifeblood of the team and most respected”.
Meanwhile, Munster will start their defence of the United Rugby Championship title with a visit from the Sharks (South Africa) to Thomond Park on Saturday week.
Over the following couple of weekends, Graham Rowntree’s side are at Benetton (Italy) and at home to Dragons.
Written by Aidan Corr.