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Aisle be Back: All Blacks v Ireland 3.0

  • By Kevin McCarthy

It’s not that long ago – well, actually it is – but All Black teams travelling north used to prepare for their Celtic nation opponents to come out firing in test matches.

What the Welsh call Hwyl – a frenzy of effort and motivation. The Irish and the Scots would also manifest the same. It was somewhat akin to the ancient tribes making berserk and terrifying charges against Roman invaders.

We know how that ended. Similarly, the All Blacks could expect to ride out the hwyl – and once the fervent crowd was silenced, move on to winning the match. Of course, the fever could reignite late in the game, but it was not a recipe for international long-term success.

So here we are in 2022, and it’s the All Blacks relying on hwyl, and their Celtic opponents who will look to ride that out – and confident in their ability to do so.

A big simplification there but indicative that New Zealand has for a long time now relied on the mercurial to dig it out of holes. Mostly successfully – but no longer.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago that what the team needed most to show was that it could problem solve. Test One, they seemed to have problem-solved. Tweaks seemed to take Ireland away from their comfort zone.

Game two, it’s still a puzzle as to how badly the performance could degenerate. But perhaps the answer is that Ireland did its own puzzle-solving – and successfully evolved.

Game Three? Well, to me we have to again take Ireland away from what they like. They are an accurate team, calm under most pressure, and know what they are about. They will kill you if you let them – and if your new idea is to try a lot, lot harder (hwyl) they’ll sit that out.

That said, can we stop this starting to play 15 minutes into the game. It’s a disturbing pattern and 10-nil down that early, you are already starting to chase the match a little.

Where the All Blacks should be channelling some righteous anger is that they are in this position at all. The Irish are favourites to make history this weekend.

But this is our soil, not theirs.

Come back with your shields – or on it.


What might it look like from the other side of the hill?

Ireland as mentioned are in the box seat – given the home side played so badly a week earlier, and with a coach who can no longer claim even the support of the New Zealand Herald rugby writers. There is a risk here of a New Zealand implosion.

But I think Irish coach Andy Farrell has all along had the bigger picture in mind – why else would you put your squad through five tough games in three weeks.

What he’s been trying to do, and succeeding you would say, is in tempering Ireland’s strengths for the World Cup. Remember that they went there in 2019 with strong credentials as well – only to perform badly and be put out of their misery in the quarterfinals by the All Blacks.

Even if they lose this Saturday, Ireland will know they’ve taken another step to being serious contenders in France. And fascinatingly, an All Blacks win will probably make not much difference at all to that wider picture.  Remember that they our likely quarterfinal opponents once again.


It’s always entertaining to tune into the live feed of the squad announcement and read the comments of the great unwashed like me.  And that’s presumably the censored comments.

Whether you agree or disagree, I think its always interesting this unscientific and self-selecting poll gets fixated on the backline, not the forwards.

Sure, David Havili will help at second-five, Will Jordan is a no-brainer, and Beauden Barrett has work to do.  But none of them – and first-five in particular – will matter that much unless the pack can deliver and start to exert pressure.

It’s indicative that we continue to search for champions to fix the wider issue – that this is not a champion team.

As for the placing of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck on the bench, you would imagine he was starting. Instead (barring injuries) he might get 15 minutes at the end, or none. So, calm down.

As for you lot, I hope you give it full throat on Saturday – and not in a super spreader sort of way. Make the Irish know they’re on our turf, and you won’t surrender that lightly.

A fair few years ago, they were playing here and their fans started up with the da-da-dah-dah-dah …. Da da da …. Oirland.  You know the cadence.

The stadium fans quickly cottoned on and when the Irish chant hit its punchline, they’d crash in with MILO!  Worked a treat.  And Milo won.

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