Ahead of New Zealand’s blockbuster quarterfinal against Ireland, the defending champions haven’t forgotten that night in Dublin last November where they were usurped in an Irish siege.
Hooker Dane Coles came off the bench that night, returning to rugby on that tour after a horror run of injuries that plighted nearly two years of his career. Having pushed through that adversity, Coles knows when you have to put some things behind you, which is what he says is important for the All Blacks to do now.
“We were beaten by the better team. We are not making excuses because it was the end of our season. We never have (made excuses). We just lost the game. They took their chances, and we didn’t,” he recalled to the media of the 2018 encounter.
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“I hope it doesn’t happen again. It’s important we don’t look back. World Cups are different. They (Ireland) get the same respect, because they have knocked us, but it’s very different in the World Cup.”
The All Blacks aren’t sure how Ireland are thinking after they stuttered through pool play, being upset by hosts Japan who ended up the top qualifier. Although they have had success over New Zealand recently, a World Cup is a very different environment which Ireland has found out once again.
“I’m not sure how they’re thinking. They’ve got a recipe to put us under pressure but we all know that being at a World Cup is very different.”
Coles’ history with Ireland goes back to 2013 when many Irish fans will remember the last pass he delivered to Ryan Crotty for the extra-time try that silenced 80,000 fans at the Aviva to rob Ireland of what would have been their first-ever win over New Zealand.
That was a lifetime ago before Coles’ first World Cup-experience, a triumph on England soil as the All Blacks went back-t0-back in 2015. When asked to compare the two World Cups, Coles says it is definitely not any easier.
“Definitely not easier. As you get older the carcass takes a bit longer to warm up. It’s exciting. I have the same excitement as I did in 2015.”
Another All Black front-rower, Joe Moody, wasn’t part of last year’s 16-9 loss but was a member of the 2016 side that got trumped in Chicago by Ireland for the first time ever.
“I suppose it’s a little bit at the back of your mind,” he said of Ireland’s recent success over New Zealand.
“It just reminds you we sort of owe them one but, at the same time, it’s not something we dwell on or focus on. They have got a couple on us in recent history but it wouldn’t matter who we’re playing this week. We have to win.”
Moody’s second career outing against Ireland was the return test in Dublin that many dubbed a ‘thuggish’ retribution as the All Blacks’ sought vengeance. If that match is anything to go by, the All Blacks will be looking to lift the intensity levels to make up for the 2018 result.
Although with a World Rugby crackdown on high tackles,they cannot afford to be as reckless as in that 2016 Dublin test, which saw the team criticised for multiple high shots. Moody knows the side will be very disciplined in the contact area.
“We know you just can’t afford to go anywhere near the head. It’s very black and white.”
One man that will be in the All Blacks sights is reigning World Player of the Year Jonathan Sexton, who is so integral to Ireland’s success. Flanker Matt Todd was pretty blunt about confirming their plan is to put him under pressure.
“You want to try to put the playmaker under pressure but it’s easier said than done. That’s certainly our plan. We want to take away his time, take away his space and make it as hard for him as we can because he’s such a key player for them,” he said.
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