Brodie Retallick returns for New Zealand ahead of Ireland clash
Rugby World Cup: Steve Hansen has named probably his strongest side for quarter-final
New Zealand’s Brodie Retallick during training ahead of the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Ireland. Photo: Mark Baker/AP Photo
Kick-off: 11.15am Irish time, Saturday. Venue: Tokyo Stadium. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 10.30am. On TV: Live on Eir Sport and RTÉ2.
The All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has placed an emphasis on form over experience in his selection to face Ireland in Saturday’s quarter-final at Yokohama Stadium, placing his trust in a quartet of young Crusaders backs who have just 37 caps between them.
In some relatively surprising selections, Codie Taylor has been chosen ahead of Dane Coles as the starting hooker, and Jack Goodhue has been preferred to Ryan Crotty who, like Ben Smith doesn’t even make the matchday 23.
As expected, Brodie Retallick returns after playing just half an hour’s rugby, against Namibia, since injuring his shoulder in the Rugby Championship last July in the 16-all draw with the Springboks in Wellington, to renew his partnership with Sam Whitelock.
All told, they are two of only eight players who were in the starting XV when Ireland beat the All Blacks in Dublin last November, and of the others Beauden Barrett is now at fullback rather than outhalf.
The other survivors are Taylor, Julien Savea, captain Kieran Read, Aaron Smith and one of that Crusaders quartet in the backs, Jack Goodhue.
“I’d say all of our group are in form at the moment. However you can only pick 23. It’s like any selection. There could be some guys we could all pick and then you come down to your combinations to finish it off. Then you figure out the style of game you’re going to play, how you think the opposition will play and you end up with the 23 that we’re all excited and comfortable with for this match,” Hansen said.
Whereas Ireland have never won a knockout match at a World Cup, the holders have won six in a row and seven of eight quarter-finals, which would seem to be a huge psychological and historical advantage for New Zealand. But Hansen, in typically relaxed form, had a different twist on that.
“One team is probably feeling that it’s their turn to win one but that doesn’t guarantee it does it. With that comes pressure. Both teams are in the same situation aren’t they? When the game comes and there’s the final whistle one team will go right and the other will go left. We all understand that.
“I caught up with Andy Farrell yesterday and had a yarn with him and in that conversation that was brought up. One of us will be going home. But that’s just the cold hard facts about the World Cup. We have experienced it ourselves in 07 and there are no guarantees we won’t experience it again. Ireland are in a situation where they haven’t gone past a quarter-final so they will be doing their darnedest not to go home.
“You just hope it’s a good a game that is not affected by cards and at the end of it no-one has got any excuses. You just have to take your fate on the chin.”
Asked to name one trait which defines this Irish team, Hansen thought for a few seconds and said: “They’re tenacious. They play a structured game that they know they’re good at. They don’t wander too far off the script and they’re not a team that give you a lot of opportunities through mistakes and they’re pretty good at keeping the ball.
“When they kick it they kick it to put pressure on your rather than give you a free shot so you just have to adapt and adjust with what is happening in the game. We have made a lot of changes since we last played them, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Most coaches are good mates off the pitch and Hansen and Joe Schmidt, one of whose tenures will come to an end on Satuday evening, are a case in point.
“It’s no different from players. Through competition you earn the respect from them and they earn yours. You understand the trials and tribulations that they go through and the pressure they’re under. We get the odd opportunity to meet each other away from the battlefield.
“They’re like-minded people and they’re trying to improve a team they’re in charge of and make the most of their time with those athletes. We have caught up with the Irish guys plenty of time in Dublin. We know Andy well, and Joe and Greg Feek. Simon Easterby I know from my time in Wales. If you are around long enough you get to know them. But when you get to the park we go for it for 80 minutes then afterwards you just have to accept what happens.
“It’s called a test for a reason. It tests your mental and physical capacity. Sport is like lie, sometimes it’s not fair and sometimes you’re going to get the rub of the green and sometimes you’re not but i think the measure of your character is how you deal with it when the game’s over.
“You put a lot in and there is a lot of emotional energy used. But you don’t really suffer from the emotional side until it’s over. How it affects you is that you get bone tired. Win lose or draw that happens. The result has nothing to do with that.”
New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo’unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Lualua; Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain).
Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.