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'We're Irish, we always have a chance but I just can't see Ireland winning this game'

Stephen Ferris believes the all-conquering All Blacks have to crack at some point, but he can’t see it happening on Saturday.

Ferris charges past Richie McCaw to score against the ABs in 2010.
Ferris charges past Richie McCaw to score against the ABs in 2010.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

AS MUCH AS Stephen Ferris would love to see Ireland end New Zealand’s record-breaking run on Saturday, the former international admits he can’t see Joe Schmidt’s side making history.

It would take a brave man to bet against the All Blacks making it 19 consecutive wins at Solider Field this weekend and Ferris says the return leg in Dublin in a fortnight’s time may be a better reflection of where Ireland are as a team.

With less than week in camp together, Ireland’s preparation to take on a side being widely-heralded as the best team to ever grace a rugby field has been less than ideal.

Furthermore, the absence of ‘leaders’ like Sean O’Brien and Peter O’Mahony means the task facing Ireland has never been as stiff.

“It’s an intriguing match, one that everyone is looking forward to,” the former Ulster man said yesterday.

“There’s going to be a good Irish contingent out there supporting the lads and hopefully they can put in a good performance because they’ve been thrown together.

“They’ve been playing for their provinces the last couple of weeks, they haven’t had much time together and the New Zealand lads have been playing for the last six weeks or eight weeks maybe and it’s going to be tough.

“We’re Irish we always have a chance. Any team always has a chance of winning but what is it 18 win on the bounce, do I think it’s going to be 19? Yes I do think it’s going to be 19 but I think they can put in a performance and build on it for the next couple of weeks.”

AIG Chicago Launch Event Ferris and Charles Piutau were in Dublin yesterday launching AIG's 'Rugby Weekend'. Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

Like every current and former Ireland international, Ferris has never been on a team to beat the All Blacks, although he does have fond memories of his first meeting with them.

The flanker opened his international try-scoring account against Richie McCaw’s side back in November 2010, only for the visitors to produce an explosive second-half performance to record a 38-18 win.

That clinical edge has so often seperated the all-conquering All Blacks from any other who dare to even come close to them — and Ferris says Ireland not only need to believe they can plot their downfall but believe they can win it in the closing stages if things get tight.

“The lads will be sitting in the changing room, running out for the match believing they can win the match. They’re not sitting in there thinking we’re going out here to try and get a couple of tries and build on the performance for a couple of weeks time.

“Every international match you go into, you believe you can win it. That’s the reason you’re there so it’s whether or not they believe they can win it after 60 or 70 minutes when they’re 10 points down or whatever.

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“But if there are opportunities there they have to be clinical and not put in a performance where if they go out and let themselves down and get beaten by 50 or 60 points, then it’s almost like back to the drawing board.

Stephen Ferris tackles John Afoa Ferris also played against the All Blacks in 2008. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“I’m just very intrigued to see if New Zealand can keep this going for another four or five weeks, to see if they can keep this momentum going. There’s a lot of pressure on them as well, there’s records at stake and if they don’t turn up at one match they’ll get beat and hopefully it’s this weekend against Ireland but I doubt it.”

There is, of course, a real danger that an under-prepared Ireland side could ship a heavy defeat in Chicago this weekend, with the All Blacks racking up big victories against South Africa, Argentina and Australia in the last few weeks.

While Ferris admits it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility, he has confidence in Schmidt’s management and would expect, even in the short window of preparation, to have a game plan drilled into the players.

“Of course they could suffer a heavy defeat but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he adds.

“Joe Schmidt will have them prepared, he makes sure he leaves no stone unturned and when the boys are taking to the pitch they know what game plan they have to stick to to stay in the game and try and win the game.

“It’s easier said than done when it’s a fast expansive game. I’ve always been in or around Irish squads when you believed you could win every match but looking from the outside in now, I just can’t see Ireland winning this game. Why? Because New Zealand are the best team in the world and Ireland have a few injures. Big leaders aren’t going to be there and when backs against the wall you need leaders to stand up but never say never.

“I think it’s [the match] good for rugby in general. There’s obviously a massive Irish contingent over there in Chicago and it’ll be a great spectacle for everyone. Hopefully both teams turn up and make it a good game of rugby.

“Is there value in the game? Yeah, of course there is, because if Ireland go over there and turn them over then there’s massive value in it. But if they go over there and get beaten by 50 points then everybody will be asking the question, ‘we shouldn’t really have took that game on’. So we just need to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

All Black Charles Piutau and former Ireland International Stephen Ferris were in The Helix Theatre in Dublin yesterday to officially launch the historic ‘Rugby Weekend’ event in Chicago, presented by AIG Insurance. Ireland play the All Blacks this Saturday in Soldier Field and The Maori All Blacks face the USA Eagles on Friday.

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