The master

'They’re capable of beating the All Blacks' - McCaw says Schmidt's Ireland must believe

The retired former New Zealand captain enjoyed 14 wins from 14 against Ireland as a player.

2016 BRINGS WITH it the opportunity for Ireland to win a third consecutive Six Nations title and take on the Springboks in a three-Test tour, but there is another major challenge ahead of Joe Schmidt’s men.

This year will see Ireland go up against New Zealand twice, providing them with the latest opportunities to end their losing record against the Kiwis.

Richie McCaw The now-retired McCaw enjoyed 14 wins from 14 games against Ireland.

28 games played against the All Blacks, zero wins for Ireland.

There was a 10-10 draw in 1973, while the agonising last-gasp defeat to Steve Hansen’s side in Dublin in 2013 remains painfully fresh in the memory.

That near miss proved to be something of a launch pad for Schmidt’s Ireland era, with the Kiwi head coach leading his team to back-to-back Six Nations titles in the following two years.

Richie McCaw was captain that day in the Aviva Stadium and enjoyed 14 wins from 14 against Ireland during his remarkably successful playing days.

The 35-year-old legend hung up his boots after securing his second World Cup trophy late last year, so won’t be around to help the All Blacks defend their winning record against Ireland this year.

Reflecting on Ireland’s near miss in Dublin in 2013 and the 22-19 defeat for Declan Kidney’s side in Christchurch in 2012, McCaw wonders whether Ireland truly believed they could break the run against New Zealand.

“They’re capable of beating the All Blacks. We’ve seen over the last four years there’s twice - once in Ireland, once in Christchurch – where it could easily have gone to the Irish, so they’ve definitely got the ability,” says McCaw.

“I think really believing you can win is a big thing and whether they did or not I’m not sure, but one of the things I’ve always been proud of is that if any team is going to beat us then they’ve really got to play for the whole 80 minutes.

“It can come down to one or two moments, but the one thing with the top half a dozen teams at least in the world is that they’re all capable on their day of winning.”

Paul O'Connell and Richie McCaw McCaw's Kiwis beat O'Connell's Ireland in 2013. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

The IRFU has confirmed that New Zealand will visit the Aviva Stadium again on 19 November of this year, while a fixture against the All Blacks in Chicago a fortnight earlier, on 5 November, is understood to have been agreed.

The US-hosted contest has yet to be officially confirmed, but two meetings with the Kiwis in one calendar year represents a huge opportunity for Schmidt’s men and McCaw believes it could be the year Ireland triumph.

“Of course it could happen,” says McCaw. “If the All Blacks don’t get their preparation right, and don’t perform, the Irish are good enough to win. We’ve seen that over the last couple of years in the Six Nations and they’ve got some quality players, so there’s no reason why not.

I hope that doesn’t happen but if you rolled out there thinking that just because you’ve put on an All Black jersey that you’re going to win, that’s when you come unstuck.”

Hansen’s squad have always had huge confidence in their ability but they haven’t really done complacency in the recent past, meaning Schmidt’s Ireland would have to deliver a complete 80-minute performance to win later this year.

Whatever about their extensive winning record against Ireland, McCaw says there is respect for Irish rugby in New Zealand.

“It’s not just the Irish, it’s any team,” says McCaw. I have a lot of respect for all the guys you come up against.

Ryan Crotty, Ma'a Nonu, Ben Smith and Richie McCaw celebrates at the final whistle McCaw believes Ireland have the ability to win in 2016. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“To play at the top level in rugby you’ve got to be a good bloke that fits into a team but you’ve got to be a good rugby player. Often I’ve found that all these guys that you play against, no matter where they come from round the world, they all have a similar outlook.

“They all have similar values which I think is unique in world sport, so there’s a lot of respect from that side. To bash the hell out of each other and then sit in the changing room and have a beer with each other, that’s pretty unique as well.

“Talking about the Irish in particular they’re all top men you play against. When you’re out on the field there’s no way you want to give an inch, but the way they approach the game and their attitude as a people too… I enjoy the Irish.

They enjoy a good laugh and they’re able to laugh at themselves, they’re quite similar to Kiwis in that regard. There’s no way you want to lose to them but you enjoy their company afterwards, so there’s definitely a healthy respect.

“We see quite a few Kiwis up there coaching the Irish and I think a bit of that influence has come through too in how they play the game.”

McCaw might not enjoy seeing it, but the hope in Ireland is that the influence of our most famous adopted Kiwi results in the losing streak against the All Blacks finally being broken in 2016.

Richie McCaw is a global ambassador for AIG, Official Insurance Partner to the All Blacks.

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