TOKYO (Reuters) – Ireland must frustrate the All Blacks to the point of error if they are to win on Saturday and reach the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup for the first time, according to 83-cap former Irish centre Gordon D’Arcy.
A stunning upset defeat at the hands of host nation Japan in the pool stage means Ireland will meet the reigning champions in Tokyo in a quarter-final on Saturday – much earlier than coach Joe Schmidt would have calculated in his meticulous planning.
D’Arcy faced New Zealand six times while representing his country and although the Irish came heartbreakingly close to winning at least two of those matches, he never tasted victory.
“The task of beating New Zealand is enormous. Each defeat is a game for the ages,” D’Arcy wrote in a column in the Irish Times on Wednesday.
“How can it be done? Simple. You frustrate them to the point of error. Every man has his breaking point. If the whistle of (referee) Nigel Owens … shrills on 80 minutes with big fat zeros beside the names of Beauden Barrett and Ardie Savea when it comes to offloading and line breaks, then victory will belong to Ireland.”
Ireland finally broke their 111-year drought against New Zealand in Chicago in 2016 and D’Arcy said the 2019 team must emulate at least part of the strategy from Soldier Field in the second row.
“What needs to happen is Ireland must frustrate the hell out of New Zealand, imprint the word ‘Ireland’ in their psyche forever more, and that starts in the same place they hurt them in Chicago,” he added.
“Iain Henderson and James Ryan need to overshadow (Brodie) Retallick and (Sam) Whitelock. They must overpower two of the biggest and most powerful men to ever wear the black jersey,” said D’Arcy, referring to the opposing second row partnerships.
“If Ireland are to smash the glass ceiling, the names Henderson and Ryan must ring out around the skinny alleyways of Shinjuku deep into Sunday morning.”
Flanker Peter O’Mahony must also have a big game, the former Leinster centre wrote, and Ireland must convert all their penalties and concede as few as possible.
Most of all, though, they must execute the clinical playing style that took them to a Six Nations Grand Slam and a second win over the All Blacks in 2018 – the last time New Zealand were defeated by a team from the Northern Hemisphere.
“In 2016, Ireland posted 40 points to beat them. Not sure this team can repeat those heights. It must be a different game. It must be a test match of messy, ridiculously high levels of intensity,” D’Arcy added.
“Give New Zealand precisely what (coach Steve) Hansen is expecting … no alarms and no surprise. Win it playing Schmidt’s rugby. Starve them of possession. That is the only way.”
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Alex Richardson)