Former Irish coach Eddie O’Sullivan believes the All Blacks’ continued use of twin playmakers Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga weakens their chances against Ireland in the Rugby World Cup quarterfinal tomorrow.
O’Sullivan highlighted a number of ‘chinks in the armour of the All Blacks’, including fragile goal-kicking and lack of discipline at the breakdown.
O’Sullivan, who coached Ireland from 2001-2008, said he fancies Ireland’s chances against an All Blacks side he believes is weaker than the World Cup winning 2015 squad.
“That’s a strong New Zealand backline but it’s not the perfect backline,” O’Sullivan told the RTE Rugby Podcast.
“I’m really happy about Barrett being at 15 because I don’t think he’s going to get his hands on the ball as much.
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“He’s a massive catalyst for New Zealand in attack. He’s a very smart defender as well. He can really cause problems when he’s on the ball. I don’t think he gets his hands on the ball as much when he’s at 15. It’s practically impossible to bring him into the game as much as Richie Mo’unga will be.
“I think those selections give us a little chink of light in terms of exploitation. I’m sure they’re looking at us the same way. But we’re much more settled than they are.
“Joe’s got a very predictable, very solid, very experienced XV, compared to the All Blacks XV which is not as experienced and I would say not quite as solid.”
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2019
O’Sullivan said having Mo’unga at No 10 would help Ireland protect their own territory better.
“We probably play our wings high and take away the space in the corners. I think you can do that against Richie Mo’unga, I’m not sure you can get away with it against Beauden Barrett as much,” O’Sullivan told RTE.
“Richie Mo’unga has not a great kicking game. He’s not as astute at exploiting (the space) in the back field. That’s good for us. Especially, if it’s wet.
“It’s another weakness. It’s hard to believe we’re talking about All Black weaknesses. But they don’t have a really front-line, high percentage place kicker. Mo’unga seems to be the one they go to more often when both of them are on the field. He seems a bit more reliable. But neither of them are lock steady.
“When you compare them to Sexton, if it comes down to a drop goal or a late penalty in a one-score game, that gives us an edge there. If you comes to that, I’d back us to win that sort of a battle in terms of the goal-kickers shooting it out.”
O’Sullivan noted a worrying trend for the All Blacks playing against match officials.
“They have had trouble with referees around offside and coming in from the side at rucks. I’m not talking about discipline in terms of foul play, I’m talking about giving away penalties at breakdowns and stepping offside at rucks.
“They’ve had a bad record of giving away kicks at goal. They do give up points, they’ve averaged 19 points conceded this year but because they usually score 25, 30, 40, nobody pays much attention to it.
“I think this New Zealand team, overall, is not as strong as the New Zealand team that won the World Cup four years ago. That was a better team. I’m not saying they won’t win the World Cup because even a bad New Zealand team is a very good rugby team. And this isn’t a bad New Zealand team by any stretch. I’m just looking for chinks of light where we might have the edge on them.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2019
“They don’t have to dominate the game for 80 minutes to beat you, they just have to find the sweet spot and stick together 15 or 20 points and the game is over,” O’Sullivan warned in the RTE Rugby Podcast.
“For that reason, they’re still an extremely dangerous outfit. Even if we believe that there are slight weaknesses here and there.
“I still fancy our chances looking at the two line-ups and the longer the game goes on and it’s tight, the better it is for us. I don’t think we’re going to put a score on them. But we know they do have that capacity. If you make mistakes, they will capitalise. They don’t tend to waste opportunities.”
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