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History suggests the All Blacks will sweep Ireland 3-nil in July

By Ben Smith
(Photo By David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile via Getty Images and Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

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After securing their third victory over the All Blacks in five years, Ireland will attempt to take down the last bastion of All Blacks supremacy – a series victory in New Zealand – next July.


However history suggests this task is almost an insurmountable endeavour for Andy Farrell’s men, and what likely awaits the Irish travelling cohert is a grand scale humbling to the tune of a 3-nil sweep.

It’s not that you would pick it on the form right now of both sides. Ireland are not a bad side, far from it, they are as strong a side in World Rugby right now.

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They possess an explosive back row with excellent athletes in Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan with the ability to bring veteran experience in Peter O’Mahoney off the bench. Tadhg Beirne, a hybrid second row-loose forward, is another turnover machine who presents an invaluable asset off the bench.

With Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong and Ronan Kelleher up front, this is as powerful an Irish pack as ever, with Cian Healy another experienced campaigner bringing depth.

Jonathan Sexton showed in November why not picking him on the Lions tour may have been a grave error. The 2018 World Player of the Year is still a genius, with an attacking brain that cannot be replaced. He simply makes everything click.

Perhaps the best player on the Lions tour of South Africa, Robbie Henshaw, was on the sidelines for Ireland in their 29-20 victory over the All Blacks. The midfielder was incredible in the air in South Africa and cemented his status as one of the game’s world-class players with his play against the Springboks.


This Ireland team will be second only to the British & Irish Lions in terms of the strength of visiting European teams over the last decade to New Zealand.

Should history be a guide, the outcome of next year’s series will not be determined by the quality of the teams but heavily by the timing, which always favours the All Blacks.

Ireland have every chance to capture a Six Nations title this season, but it will be a brutal chase with away fixtures against heavyweights France and England. The bulk of the Irish squad will then be chasing a fifth European title with Leinster. The further they go in that tournament, the more harm they do to having a successful New Zealand tour.

If they capture the European crown in late May, on the doorstep of summer, the last thing any of the players want to do is then head away to New Zealand in the middle of winter. The timing of these tours have been the All Blacks’ secret sauce for over 20 years.


The first test often is a good contest for 60-minutes or so before the All Blacks stretch away in the final quarter. The second test, with the series on the line, draws out the best performance of the tour from the visitors and shapes as being the closest match.

If they fail to keep the series alive, the third test is an inevitable landslide defeat.

Andy Farrell’s words of restoring pride and honour during the week will unfortunately fall on deaf ears. The bodies will be in the room but the minds will already be on deckchairs in Dubai or where ever else Ireland’s stars have booked their summer holiday.

If Ireland fails to save the series in the misery of a blustery, raining July night in the second test in Wellington, mentally they will finish the tour right then and there with faces whipped red by freezing sleet rain and howling wind, along with aches and pain in every sinew of the body.

A trip back to Eden Park for the third and final test will almost be a ceremonial massacre like most visiting teams have had.

By that point, the New Zealand fans will barely register the names of the Irish players outside of a select few knowns. Unless you beat the All Blacks at home, the casuals will see not much more than numbers in green jerseys.

This is because since the restating of three test tours in 2012, the All Blacks have won every single won of those series 3-0 with the exception of the drawn British & Irish Lions tour in 2017.

In that first year of three test series in 2012, after a drubbing first up at Eden Park Ireland valiantly fought to save the series but succumbed to a late Dan Carter drop goal to lose 22-19 in the second. The 60-0 result in the third and final test triggered much soul searching and a post-mortem forensic review by IRFU of the disaster.

In 2013 the French gave their best effort of the tour in the first test, a 23-13 loss. They could not rise for the second, which was a 30-0 belting before another 24-9 loss in the third.

England’s tour in 2014 offered tight contests in the first two tests, going down 20-15 and 28-27 before the damn collapsed in the dead rubber and they were washed away 36-13 and sent back home with a blackwash.

Wales in 2016 was the same predictable story, after losing the series in the second test they were subjected to a third test torturing by 46-6. France in 2018 were the same, fighting hard in the second test when they were down to 14-men to save the series. Once they lost that, the floodgates opened in Dunedin for a 49-14 beatdown.

Aside from the All Blacks being a strong team, the timing of the mid-year tours could not be better for New Zealand’s players, with three solid months of Super Rugby under their belts and a fizzing desire to represent the All Blacks again.

The All Blacks will be hitting their peak while Ireland will invariably be reaching the worst part of the season, stretched too long and too thin to be primed for top flight international rugby.

Since the dawn of professional rugby in 1996 and the expansion of the playing calendar, European nations have 46 losses, one draw and three wins playing the All Blacks in New Zealand in the June/July window with a measly six percent win rate.

Just three teams have pulled off wins, England in 2003, France in 2009 and the British & Irish Lions in 2017. A solitary win in the series next year would be historic, a series win would be the first by a European over the All Blacks at home in the professional era.

Whilst England came away from their one-off clash in 2003 with the spoils, that can’t be counted as a series.

If the current ‘win one, lose one’ pattern between the sides that has been ongoing since 2016 persists, the All Blacks will win the first test and Ireland will make history in the second to draw it and force a decider.

A competitive series would be welcomed, but it’s not just hyperbole to suggest that Ireland must climb rugby’s Everest to win the series. This will be harder than reaching a World Cup semi-final.

After a lack of home tests over the last two years against top tier opposition due to the pandemic, 2022 shapes as a reunion of sorts for the All Blacks with the New Zealand public. The players too, will be bolstered by the comforts of home.

The wildcard for Ireland is the extra month they will receive to prepare. Previous tours have occurred in June, rolling right off the back of the domestic European season. Ireland will have a month off to recuperate but whether this improve their chances or diminish them is yet to be seen.

Previously the players would be sipping cocktails in the sun during July, now they will be enjoying the New Zealand winter.

And not in Queenstown this time around.


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