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'Joe Schmidt will have an array of plays ready for this New Zealand defence'

Murray Kinsella and Eoin Toolan look ahead to Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against the All Blacks.

Ireland face the stiffest test in rugby this weekend.
Ireland face the stiffest test in rugby this weekend.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

THIS IS THE week we’ve been waiting for.

Four years of hard work, of meticulous preparation, has all been building towards Saturday in Tokyo.

Will it be more World Cup quarter-final heartache for Joe Schmidt’s Ireland or can the head coach bring this team to rarefied heights?

It’s quarter-final week at the World Cup in Japan and there are four mouthwatering showdowns down for decision this weekend, including Ireland’s clash against the All Blacks.

Having steadied the ship and safely negotiated the pool stages to advance as runners-up in Pool A, Ireland have returned to the bright lights of Tokyo for the business end of the tournament. 

Although Schmidt’s side have been dealt a setback with the news Bundee Aki has been banned for three games following his red card against Samoa, Ireland appear to be in a good space heading into their last-eight encounter against the holders.

The sense, and indeed hope, is that Ireland are growing into this tournament after finishing the pool stages with a strong display against Samoa, despite playing a large chunk of the game with 14 men after Aki’s dismissal.

Speaking on The42 Rugby Weekly, performance analyst Eoin Toolan was encouraged by the performance in Fukuoka heading into this week.

“Ireland were really back to a typically accurate performance where it was a really low error rate game,” Toolan said. “They had 118 rucks in the game and only lost one and only conceded five penalties in the game, compared to Samoa’s 17.

“They had 75% possession and of that 75% possession, 36% was in Samoa’s 22, so they just absolutely dominated Samoa from a territorial perspective and other than Bundee’s red card, gave Samoa no access points into the game.

“Ireland were extremely accurate and going back to the breakdown, they didn’t give Samoa any access to the ball, which created the fast ball that is so important to Ireland’s attack.”

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joe-schmidt-ahead-of-the-game Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

While Ireland’s defence has been strong during the campaign, Murray Kinsella believes Schmidt’s side will need to show variety in their attack against the All Blacks, who have not lost a World Cup game since defeat in the 2007 quarter-finals to France.

“I’d imagine there will have been ideas held for this game,” Kinsella said of Schmidt’s power plays. “He would have been analysing the All Blacks for a long, long time and that never stops for him and his analysis team either. I thought one of the other encouraging things from the Samoa performance was that the forwards carried well. It’s kind of subtle stuff but the detail around their carry was better and has improved as the competition has gone on. 

“There was a little bit more variety and that’s going to be key because the All Blacks individually are such good defenders, they’re such intelligent defenders and Ireland are going to need to be multi-faceted in attack. Their phase play will have to be good, they’ll have to be able to retain possession and there will have to be a low error count.

“I definitely think Schmidt has held little bits back, even off scrum. You go back over the last couple of years and he has had some really inventive ones that he has probably gone ‘okay, that actually worked, I’m going to tuck that away for a special occasion.’ I’d say it will be a blend of both and I think it is encouraging to see the forwards carried well.”

Toolan agreed that Ireland will look to gain good field position by putting the All Blacks back three under pressure aerially, while adding ’Joe Schmidt will have an array of plays ready for this New Zealand defence’.

Listen to the full episode below, during which Murray and Eoin go into further detail ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final. 

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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