This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
Dublin: 4 °C Sunday 16 February, 2020

All Blacks claim they got the quarter-final they wanted after avoiding Japan

Steve Hansen said he was keen to steer clear of the in-form hosts, who topped Pool A.

ALL BLACKS BOSS Steve Hansen claims he was keen for his team to avoid Japan in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, given the hosts’ impressive form.

Hansen has got his wish and World Cup favourites New Zealand have instead ended up with a quarter-final fixture against Joe Schmidt’s Ireland on Saturday in Tokyo.

The Kiwis are firm favourites to advance into the semi-finals as they target a third consecutive World Cup trophy in the coming weeks.

steve-hansen Hansen says he was keen to avoid Japan. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Hansen has been very impressed by the quality and style of Japan’s play, which brought Jamie Joseph’s men four wins from four in Pool A and secured them a first-ever quarter-final against South Africa.

“It’s a good way to play footy, isn’t it?” said Hansen of the Brave Blossoms.

“It has worked against Ireland, it has now worked against Scotland and their other pool opponent, Samoa.

“People have asked who did we want to play? Well, they [Japan] are the form team so I’m quite happy they’re on the other side of the draw.”

Ireland will be highly motivated to show Hansen that he has ended up with a nightmare draw, with Schmidt’s players happily assuming the status of underdogs that leaves the pressure on the All Blacks to deliver the win that will be widely expected.

Hansen indicated yesterday that he hopes to outfox Schmidt with a few tactical traps, saying he might be able to “set him up,” while underlining that the Kiwis have a good idea of what is coming their way on Saturday, with Ireland “pretty set on how they play.”

Schmidt’s side have, of course, won two of the three most recent meetings between the sides, although the All Blacks are of the belief that this World Cup clash will be a completely different ballgame.

“If you do look at the last few games there is no doubt that they have been massive arm wrestles and hugely physical occasions but we are at a Rugby World Cup play-off game,” said flanker Sam Cane, who made his debut against Ireland in 2012.

robbie-henshaw-is-injured-in-the-tackle-of-sam-cane Sam Cane makes a hit on Robbie Henshaw in 2016. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“Past games don’t count for anything. It’s about this weekend and the team that can prepare the best and front up the best. It doesn’t matter what has gone on in the past.

“They’ve got a lot of strengths and we are excited by a challenge. It’s exactly where we want to be. We came to this World Cup wanting to play in a quarter-final and if we don’t get it right, we’re going home. We’re excited and the week already has a slightly different feel to it.” 

The Kiwis will be keeping a close eye out for some of Schmidt’s clever set-piece strikes this weekend.

“They’re a quality side, they’re well-coached,” said All Blacks centre Anton Lienert-Brown

“I’m sure they have plenty of specials up their sleeves. They’ve got quality players and their coaches have done a great job, so it has always been tough against them.

“As a team, we’re in a good place but we are going to have to be right near our best at the weekend.”

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel