Subscriber OnlyRugby

Schmidt says Ireland will adapt, Liam Toland on where to target All Blacks

The Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the Rugby World Cup with The Irish Times sports team

Joe Schmidt speaks to his Ireland squad ahead of Saturday’s clash with the All Blacks. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

One more sleep to go. Tomorrow morning Ireland will take on the back-to-back champions New Zealand (kick-off 11.15am Irish time) for a place in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals. This will be fifth meeting with the All Blacks of Joe Schmidt's Ireland tenure, with the score currently at two wins apiece. Defeat would see his time at the helm come to an end, but no coach has levelled the playing field between the two sides as much as Schmidt. From Tokyo, Gerry Thornley writes: "It is Ireland's ability to adapt to the All Blacks on four different occasions and finding ways to be consistently competitive, even winning two of them by scoring five tries to four in Chicago or one try to nil last November, which along with the players' ability emboldens the belief in this team's capacity to dethrone the champions." And ahead of Saturday's match, Schmidt has outlined where he think the Kiwis are most dangerous. He said: "I think most coaches would say transition. If you turn ball over to them they're ferociously dangerous. Their speed to transition from defence to attack is something that everybody fears about the All Blacks."

Meanwhile in his column this morning Liam Toland has identified two key areas where Ireland can target the All Blacks in Tokyo - at the set piece and at the breakdown. He writes: "The set piece is one, especially the scrum. I've flagged Owen Franks' omission from the All Blacks squad weeks ago because he didn't impact the ball enough. The All Black solution was to select ball carriers. This is a massive scrum and subsequent attacking platform opportunity." Ireland's set-piece was dominant during last November's win in Dublin, and needs to be on song again in order for their wide men to flourish: "For the second Ireland win the All Blacks were vulnerable to the Irish set piece platform. Can Ireland create a varied attack to confuse the All Blacks' defence, affording Keith Earls and Jacob Stockdale their first try of this World Cup?" Elsewhere we have profiled the Ireland side who line out against the All Blacks on Saturday, which you can read here.

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen had a number of tight calls to make when naming his starting XV yesterday, and he has pointed towards a fully loaded bench which could prove the difference in Tokyo. Brodie Retalick has returned to the side in what is a big boost for the All Blacks, but they also boast a pretty impressive supporting cast - the eight replacements have 297 caps between them. Hansen said: "Brodie is a bit of a freak when it comes to fitness. He's got a big motor. His ability after long or short breaks, he has put the work in. There's no question mark about that. It's all about how long we have to, or want to play him. We are very fortunate that we have got Scott Barrett, who is a very good player in his own right, so we have the ability to inject some fresh legs into the game. Those fresh legs could be the difference makers. We are very fortunate with our bench. It's strong and has been for a long time. When you look at that experience on the bench it does give you a bit of confidence." You can read our profiles of Hansen's starting XV for Tokyo here.

Elsewhere Warren Gatland has been able to name a full-strength side for Sunday's quarter-final clash with Six Nations rivals France in Oita (kick-off 8.15am Irish time). That means Dan Biggar has been passed fit after passing return to play protocols having been forced off with a head injury against Fiji, while Jonathan Davies has also been selected after recovering from a knee injury.


And George Ford is a notable omission from the England side to take on Australia in the opening quarter-final on Saturday morning in Oita (kick-off 8.15am), with Eddie Jones instead opting to start Owen Farrell at outhalf, with Manu Tuilagi and Henry Slade in midfield. They will be lining out against 19-year-old Jordan Petaia, who will become the first player born this century to feature in a RWC knockout match.

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden is a former sports journalist with The Irish Times