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The quarterfinal meeting between Ireland and New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup comes with a strong feeling of reckoning.
Ireland hadn’t beaten New Zealand in 28 matches over 111 years until its 40-29 victory at Soldier Field in Chicago in 2016.
It did so again, 16-9, in Dublin in 2018, establishing Ireland as the one team in world rugby at present that regularly has the All Blacks’ number.
Ireland went on, after Wales’ brief tenure atop the world rankings, to become the No. 1-ranked team just ahead of the Rugby World Cup, displacing New Zealand from a spot it had occupied since the ranking system began.
Against that background, the match between Ireland and defending champion New Zealand at Tokyo on Saturday, which appears the most competitive of the quarterfinals, also seems a reckoning between the teams.
It occurs earlier in the tournament than expected. Japan’s wins over Ireland and Scotland in Pool A went against pre-tournament predictions and saw the hosts emerge atop their pool, forcing second-place I
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