Follow all the action on the RugbyPass live blog from the World Cup quarter-final match between New Zealand versus Ireland in Tokyo. Keep up to date with the latest score, stats and join the conversation from anywhere in the world in our Live Match Centre (click here).
All Blacks young guns Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown have been backed to provide the firepower to shoot down Ireland. Steve Hansen has opted to go with the 24-year-olds for Saturday’s clash over more experienced campaigners Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.
New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster admits it was a tough call, especially with double World Cup winner Williams back on top form. But Hansen’s right-hand man is confident that Crusaders protege Goodhue and Chiefs midfielder Lienert-Brown are the men to unlock Joe Schmidt’s team.
He said: “We’ve always had a plan in mind to some degree, but it’s how you train and how you play that have also got a major say in selection. It’s one thing for coaches to have a long-term plan but we have got to assess that weekly.
“So it’s been a tough decision in midfield and it’s a tough decision not so much who to put in but who to leave out. We would have been quite happy with all four of them in those 12 and 13 jerseys. We just felt for this game that Anton is playing really well at the moment, full of energy.
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“Jack has come back from a hamstring and has got back to the level we know he can play at. We like the combination but at the same time we have got Sonny there and he is probably playing the best I have seen him play for 12 to 18 months. There is a lot of energy there too.
“And Ryan did a great job against South Africa, so we have got some good choices. But for whatever reason we just think these two for this one. We think they can get us off to a great start.”
New Zealand are on the hunt for their third straight World Cup title and fourth overall. Ireland, on the other hand, have never made it past the quarter-finals but Foster admits past experiences will not make it any easier for his team as they come up against a side that have come out on top in two of their three previous meetings.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 17, 2019
He said: “We’ve been here before and we have handled those moments. I guess Ireland have been in a lot of quarter-finals too. Knock-out rugby is about fronting up on the day and executing under that sort of pressure. We have been there but it doesn’t make it any easier just because you have the knowledge of what is at stake.”
Sam Whitelock was one of the All Blacks’ heroes of both their 2011 and 2015 triumphs. He admits challenges like Saturday’s are the reason he first picked up a ball as a child. The 31-year-old lock said: “These games are why we play rugby. These games are the ones when you are a little kid in the back yard you dream about.
“You always wanted to take the winning drop goal – but I don’t think that will be me. That’s the cool thing for us as players and coaches – we are getting to live those dreams, those wet, cold days when you are told to go outside because you are annoying mum and dad. We’re getting to live that reality so it’s pretty awesome.”
Sevu Reece would currently be playing club rugby in Ireland but for the court case that led to a contract offer retraction… now he is part of the All Blacks looking to knock Ireland out of the World Cup https://t.co/67BCVKUwg0
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 18, 2019
Schmidt, meanwhile, has backed “big moments player” Peter O’Mahony to deliver again when it matters most in Saturday’s quarter-final. British and Irish Lions flanker O’Mahony has held off the challenge of the in-form Rhys Ruddock to start Ireland’s last-eight battle.
O’Mahony might not top many tackle or carry counts, but head coach Schmidt insisted the 63-cap Munster back row remains vitally important to Ireland’s approach. Asked to appraise O’Mahony’s influence given those statistical anomalies, Schmidt expanded on the talismanic loose forward’s specific role and harked back to a top-level showing in Ireland’s 16-9 win over New Zealand in November.
An excellent record in 75 matches in six years boils down to a single 80 minutes in Tokyo for Joe Schmidt as Ireland go head to head against his native New Zealandhttps://t.co/4ur0hNf9oj
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 18, 2019
“He brings a leadership and experience, and he’s a very effective lineout operator for us,” said Schmidt about O’Mahony. “Part of it is the structure, the way that he ends up across the width of the pitch. He tends to be playing in the wider channels, and therefore he’s not as involved as some of the other players who are closer in.
“I think stats always tell part of the story but they don’t tell the complete picture. And for us, there are things he can add for us that we think will be really important. He saved our bacon the last time we played the All Blacks with an exceptional turn and chase and the long arms that he reached out just to pluck the ball in front of Ben Smith, who really would have scored for certain if Pete hadn’t got back and saved that.
“I think he won two balls on the ground in that game for us as well, and that’s important. So he has been a bit of a big moments player for us; maybe not as many moments but the big moments, they count.”
WATCH: Jim Hamilton previews the New Zealand vs Ireland World Cup quarter-final in the latest episode of Don’t Mess With Jim
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