Dublin - Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland host world
champions New Zealand on Saturday in what could be termed an unofficial global
final less than a year from the real thing.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes whoever wins the
encounter between the two top-ranked teams at Lansdowne Road would deserve to
be rated the best in the world.
His Ireland counterpart and fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt
masterminded his side's historic first success over the All Blacks in Chicago
He is more understated about the significance of Saturday's
game where Ireland will be looking to beat New Zealand at home for the first
time, but recognises victories over the Southern Hemisphere giants are rare for
"Look, it's always an achievement to beat the All
Blacks, that's why we limit ourselves to just once every 115 years," the
Schmidt, who has been mentioned as a potential New Zealand
coach, will announce by the end of the month whether he plans to stay when his
Ireland contract runs out after the World Cup.
"I think when they first turned up in 1905 they were
incredibly tough to knock over and I don't think they've changed too
much," he said.
"Their depth of experience, the number of centurions,
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 on Saturday."
Schmidt admits his side must not repeat the errors that
cropped up in the 28-17 win over Argentina last Saturday.
"It's a results driven industry," he said.
"You've got to get the result at the end of the day and
I suppose one of the negatives of climbing your way up the rankings is that I
think expectations change and it's not enough to win.
"The one exception in world rugby is any old win will
do against the All Blacks.
"I'll take 3-0."
Schmidt will hope that without scrum-half Conor Murray, who
has not played this season due to a neck injury, fly-half Johnny Sexton will be
able to orchestrate matters with Kieran Marmion alongside him.
Should the half-backs gel, Sexton's battle with his opposite
number Beauden Barrett could prove decisive.
"Johnny creates space because of his timing and his
acumen," said Schmidt.
"I'm not saying that Beauden Barrett doesn't have that.
I think it's just a real strength of Johnny."
Hansen, who will bid next year to win successive World Cups
as coach, thinks Schmidt, despite his denials, will have a trick or two up his
"They're probably the team in world rugby who hang onto
the ball the most," said Hansen.
"If they don't get what they want they take to the
air... They've got a good kicking game. You've got to admire all of that.
"It's winning. They'll punish you. They'll find a
weakness and he's pretty good, Joe at finding a trick or two, so we'll be
expecting one or two coming our way Saturday."
Hansen guided the All Blacks to another Rugby Championship
title this year but suffered a surprise home defeat by South Africa along the
But he insisted that losing a game can help a team.
"You certainly have a look at yourself a bit
better," said Hansen.
"It's one of the conundrums, isn't it, when you're
winning, how you continue to keep winning and learning at the same time.
"For Ireland, that's something they're trying to master
for themselves at the moment.
"It's a difficult thing to do."
The winning conundrum is one either coach will be more than
happy to have come the final whistle on Saturday.