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Former-All Black looking past Ireland

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Former All Blacks captain already looking past Ireland

One former All Blacks captain is already worrying about a potential semi-final against England, just days out from New Zealand’s crunch quarter-final with Ireland.

Ireland have beaten the All Blacks in two of their last three meeting, yet Zinzan Brooke seems more concerned with a potential encounter with Eddie Jones’ England.

“I do fear the England semifinal,” Brooke told the Rugby Paper.

The piece doesn’t mention the Ireland quarter-final, instead focusing on a potential England NZ showdown.

“If the two teams do meet, which I expect them to, it could come down to a toss of the coin on the day. Top sport is about close margins and I can’t see much between them.

“I’d like to say ‘yes, New Zealand are going to win’ but I don’t confidently see it that way.”

The apparent faux pas wasn’t missed by one fellow NZ pundit.

With Ireland experiencing mixed form at the World Cup, few are talking up their chances of upsetting the All Blacks, despite the recent results between the two sides.

Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby has been talking up the opposition.

“They have the ability across the board to hurt you and they’re probably most dangerous when it’s loose and maybe get a turnover and are able to do what they did against South Africa – and go from 3-0 down to a 17-3 lead very quickly.

“Things like that can happen very quickly if you’re not on your game, so we’re fully aware of that. We’ve seen that ourselves in recent games, how dangerous they can be. We know that if you give them a sniff, they’ll take their opportunities.”

The All Blacks have changed their approach after suffering a defeat to Joe Schmidt’s side in November 2018, a fact not lost on Easterby.

“I don’t know whether it’s solely down to that game – but I guess every team gets to a point where they must keep evolving and trying to stay ahead of their opposition. We’re no different.

“They have so many threats across the park. They are a team that ensure you can’t switch off for a minute. They have enough ball players to play certain styles but they also have the ability to play a set-piece game and muscle up. In our phase attack, we have to look after the ball and make sure we don’t give them any soft turnover opportunities.

“Without the ball, we need to be on the money and our set-piece has to stand up. It’s going to be a real challenge for us as a forward pack. Whether it was in Chicago (where Ireland beat NZ in 2016) or the last couple of times, the game is certainly set there in terms of tone.

“Both teams will be looking to do that and the rest of your game can thrive off the foundation you set up front.”

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Former All Blacks captain already looking past Ireland