Ireland v New Zealand: How All Blacks have shaped Ireland's rugby rise

By Cian MurtaghBBC Sport NI
Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has taken on Steve Hansen's New Zealand three times
Ireland v New Zealand
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 17 November Kick-off: 19:00 GMT
Coverage: Radio commentary on BBC Radio Ulster; live text and match report on BBC Sport website.

In the world of rugby the gold standard for all the other teams is All Black.

Grand Slam champions Ireland get a chance to test themselves against three-time World Cup winners New Zealand in Dublin on Saturday.

Ireland have climbed to second in the world rankings under Joe Schmidt but the Kiwi-native still measures the progress of his side by their matches against his homeland.

Ireland have only beaten New Zealand once in 30 matches since they first met in 1905, but that win came in the United States two years ago.

"It's always an achievement to beat the All Blacks," dead-panned Schmidt.

"That's why we limit ourselves to once every 115 years because we don't want to get carried away with things.

"When they first turned up in 1905 they were incredibly tough to knock over and I don't think they've changed too much.

"The depth of their experience, the number of centurions they've got - or guys with 70-80 caps - it is formidable and it would be a huge feather in these players' cap if they could topple them."

Painful four minutes and 22 seconds etched into memory

Saturday will be the fourth meeting between the two nations during the Schmidt era - the All Blacks lead the head-to-head 2-1 - and every minute of the previous three encounters has been burned into the memory of the Ireland coach.

The 2016 win at Soldier Field in Chicago will be foremost in the minds of most Irish supporters this weekend but that was superseded two weeks later when the All Blacks exacted a swift and terrible revenge at the Aviva Stadium.

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For Schmidt, the first time pitting his wits against Steve Hansen in November 2013 remains an important reference point.

In only his third game in charge, Schmidt's Ireland raced into a 19-0 lead in Dublin and led by five points with six minutes remaining when Johnny Sexton missed a penalty and from the restart New Zealand marched up field to engineer a try for Ryan Crotty before Aaron Cruden's re-taken conversion saw the visitors snatch an agonising victory.

The late defeat had such an impact on Schmidt and his coaching staff that it became a key part of Irish training sessions afterwards.

"The ball went out of touch but it was thrown back in quickly so I think the ball was in play for over four minutes and 22 seconds," recalls flanker Chris Henry.

"So every time we went to train after that we had a drill and it was intense and it was for four minutes and 22 seconds so you knew that during a match you could go full-on for that length of time, push your lungs and push your legs to the limit because you had already experienced the pressure during the week."

Ryan Crotty scores a try for New Zealand
Ryan Crotty's injury-time try helped New Zealand snatch a narrow win over Ireland in 2013

One hundred seconds of agony

Schmidt himself referred to the closing stages of that 2013 loss on Thursday, although he has now narrowed his focus to the heart-stopping finish when Ireland lost possession with 29 seconds of normal time remaining.

"I remember that one minute and 39 seconds that it took them from the tap penalty to the tryline when Ryan Crotty goes over," he said with a grimace.

"A hundred seconds of pretty agonising viewing for us. That's the sort of thing that they've delivered a number of times.

"With 20 minutes left to play in South Africa recently they were down 20-13 - that's an incredible turnaround to get up and win that game - but they have made a habit of doing it, albeit sometimes it's by a whisker.

"I'd like to think that we could be in the game but playing the All Blacks it's very hard to predict exactly how the game is going to go."

Win the aerial battle

Ireland are without four key players for Saturday's match with scrum-half Conor Murray, centre Robbie Henshaw and flanker Sean O'Brien joined on the injury list by Dan Leavy, who was originally named to start.

The absence of Murray, who plays a crucial role in Ireland's kicking game, has created an opportunity for Kieran Marmion to impress the Ireland coach, while 6ft 10in Devin Toner has replaced Iain Henderson in the second row ahead of the anticipated aerial contest this weekend.

The Rugby Social - All Blacks and retirement

"You need to starve New Zealand of the ball and I would start Dev as well," said Henry.

"Whenever you have got somebody who is six inches taller than everyone else - if the throw is spot on and he's jumping with two lifters - it's nearly impossible to stop him taking a banker ball every time and obviously he knows the options that they have inside out.

"I can't wait to see the aerial battle with Sexton on [full-back Damian] McKenzie and getting the boys chasing him down.

"You don't want to give the All Blacks the ball but McKenzie is short and yes he's brave but if Sexton's kicking is on the money we can get up and that's where Murray... If you had Murray on there I'd be a lot more confident."

Henry's former Ulster and Ireland team-mate Darren Cave is also bullish about Ireland's prospects of toppling the All Blacks and believes that Schmidt will be hugely motivated to upset the world number one team.

"He's a Kiwi, he's a New Zealander, he will be beyond busting to beat these boys again," said Cave.

"A guy who played rugby in New Zealand, lived in New Zealand and a proud Kiwi his whole life, to beat them would be amazing.

"If New Zealand play really well they're impossible to beat but I'm backing this Ireland team at home.

"Sexton is probably the best fly-half in the world and I think he'll be better this week, and the team will be better too. I know we have beaten them before but if ever we were going to beat them I think it is this week."

Darren Cave and Chris Henry were speaking to Gavin Andrews on BBC Sport NI's The Rugby Social

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