#parent | #kids | The All Blacks now stand between Ireland and semi-final history

And so it has come to pass, as has seemed both inevitable and a tad daunting, for the last two weeks. If this Ireland are to boldly go where no Irish team has ever gone before in a World Cup and reach a first ever semi-final then they will merely have to dethrone the back-to-back world champions New Zealand in Tokyo next Saturday. That’s all.

Japan’s 28-21 win over Scotland on Sunday – a riotous, ridiculously thrilling exchange of high tempo, attacking rugby – perhaps made more people realise that Ireland actually lost to a damned fine side two weeks ago. It also sent many millions of Brave Blossoms fans into raptures on a bank holiday weekend, and meant the hosts topped Pool A and secured a quarter-final against South Africa in Tokyo Stadium next Sunday.

Ireland will play the All Blacks the day before in the same ground (kick-off 7.15pm/11.15am Irish time) after England and Australia clash in Oita Stadium in the first quarter-final. Wales and France meet there next Sunday.

Ireland have only met the All Blacks in a World Cup once before, losing 43-19 in a 1995 World Cup pool stages in Johannesburg, but at least go into this meeting – an aptly defining game for the Joe Schmidt era – after ending a wait of 111 years and 28 matches for their first of two wins in the last three meetings.

Ireland won 40-29 in Chicago and 16-9 in the Aviva Stadium, and if the Irish defence coach, Andy Farrell, has learned one lesson from the four meetings under his watch, it’s this: “You’ve got to score points. There’s no doubt about it. You’ve got to score points against the All Blacks, because they’re a dangerous threat.

“You’ve got to take your game to them, and I think we’ve been able to do it in the past. Whoever has beaten them of late has taken their game to them. But they’re a pretty formidable side. You have to play your own game and score points because there’s no doubt they will.”

Hard to beat

While forewarned is forearmed, one ventures that the All Blacks might not relish playing Ireland either.

“We’d like to think that nobody thinks it’s nice playing against Ireland,” said Farrell. “There’s one thing for sure, come the weekend it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing against, we’ll certainly be hard to beat, there’s no doubt about that.”

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