"If it bleeds, we can kill it" 

Ireland can take something from that Arnold Schwarzenegger-delivered line from Predator but they would be ill-advised to think that the same animal that they skinned alive in 2016 in Chicago and at the Aviva last November is going to show up in Tokyo tomorrow. 

The famous wins over New Zealand were special for their own reasons, not least getting hand of history off their shoulder. 

Gone now are the days when Ireland trudged from hapless defeat to hapless defeat, with the odd plucky 40 minutes thrown in here and there.

This team knows it can kill the beast.

Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong have both beaten the All Blacks three times (including a Lions win in 2017) and 19 of the 23 in the match-day squad have had the pleasure.

"You have a certain amount of confidence then just getting past that roadblock," said Conor Murray, who was injured for last November's victory. 

"It's a massive boost of confidence, it shows you that they’re human. It just gives you that massive self-belief that you might have been restricted by the record that was there."

But there is a big but. 

Those games may be called Tests or autumn internationals but they were just friendlies.

People can fall out over such name-calling so that's why it's important to take your cues from those in the know. 

"None of us ever treat the autumn internationals as friendlies but ultimately that's what they are," said Rory Best not three months after the 16-9 win.  

That honesty, from a man surrounded by people who don't want him to say things like that, is refreshing.

But more important than that it's instructive in terms of Ireland's mentality and crucial to their hopes of upsetting the 11-point favourites. 

Steve Hansen's side haven't lost a World Cup tie since 2007 and are on a record 17-game winning streak in the competition they've won on the last two renewals. 

Ireland, on the other hand, are aiming to break new ground by qualifying for a first-ever semi-final. 

"I wouldn't often speak in black and white terms over what success looks like, but we know the only way that we can be successful is to get past that quarter-final," admitted Joe Schmidt prior to the tournament, which has so far brought victory over Scotland, Russia and Samoa, and a defeat to Japan. 

And having clarified what qualifies as success, this match, rightly or wrongly, is set to define Schmidt's six-and-a-half-year tenure in charge of Ireland.

The clash has been four years in the making. As Argentina brushed Ireland aside in Cardiff in 2015 the camera cut to the head coach looking on in horror, the game and a chance to make history slipping away in front of his eyes.  

The plot to break new ground began then and Ireland are where they expected to be but the journey was not as foreseen.

Schmidt would have planned to top Pool A, but at no stage before New Zealand’s win over South Africa in Pool B, did that automatically mean a meeting with his native countrymen.

The suspension of Bundee Aki aside, and pre-tournament injuries to Dan Leavy and Sean O’Brien he has a full deck to work with, while Damien McKenzie is the Kiwis highest-profile missing man. 

Hansen has opted to leave Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty out of his match-day squad, while Schmidt has gone with the tried and trusted, Peter O'Mahony, Garry Ringrose and Rob Kearney returning to the ranks, and hopes there is one mega performance left in them. 

Nigel Owens is the man in the middle tomorrow and his tendency to keep games free-flowing may be of concern; better a ref that blows for everything given the way that the holders like to push the boundaries. The Welshman has refereed 15 Ireland games in his careers, overseeing eight wins and seven losses. 

Historically, Ireland’s record against the All Blacks makes for grim reading: no win in the first 28 attempts.

Lately, the trend has been in Ireland’s favour, winning two of the last three games and joining Australia as the only team to have beaten the Kiwis twice in this World Cup cycle.

Andy Farrell's defence succeeded in keeping the visitors to two penalties and a dropgoal, all from Beauden Barrett, 11 months ago and delivered a masterclass in discipline. 

They conceded only 11 turnovers and five penalties, to New Zealand's 17 and 11. The set-piece stood firm and although the Webb Ellis holders broke through on occasion the desire to scramble (164 tackles) and deny their opponents was key to the victory. 

On only one occasion in 104 Tests under Hansen has his team been kept to single digits. That was the game.

"They're tenacious. They play a pretty structured game that they know they're good at," said Hansen, whose team were good value in a high-class 23-13 win over South African and blew away Canada and Namibia in the pool. 

"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."


The coaches have shared equal success from four games in the last six years. How Schmidt would like to get one more over on his native country before he steps down. 

Victory requires nothing less than the best performance of his era. 

Last November, when Ireland won but remained second in the rankings, Hansen awarded the team title of best in the world and wondered if they could deal with the pressure that brings. They failed. 

The favourites tag didn't suit Ireland at all and we’re back to a place we thought we had left behind - that of the spirited Irish underdog producing a one-off performance with little momentum behind them and from the ashes of an unconvincing pool stage. 

Maybe that's when they are at their most dangerous. 

"It's been a long time in the back of our minds," said Sexton at the captain's run. "We’re here now, it’s a little surreal."

And very exciting. 

Verdict: New Zealand. 

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Gary Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jacob Stockdale; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan; Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour.

New Zealand: Beauden Barrett; Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge; Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Nepo Laulala, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (capt).

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRU)

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Follow Ireland v New Zealand on Saturday 19 October (kick-off 11.15am) via the live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the News Now App, watch live on RTÉ2 or listen to live match commentary on RTÉ Radio 1.