Brodie Retallick All Blacks stand in the way as Ireland target first-ever World Cup semi-final

Brodie Retallick This is one astonishing add-on!

Updated 1 hour ago

THE LAST TIME Ireland faced and beat the All Blacks, the Kiwis didn’t have George Bridge and Sevu Reece on the wings.

Beauden Barrett was their out-half, rather than their fullback, while Ardie Savea was their at openside flanker, rather than blindside, mainly because Sam Cane was missing through injury.

Karl Tu’inukuafe, currently playing Mitre 10 Cup rugby, was their starting loosehead prop, while the veteran Owen Franks, also omitted from this World Cup squad, was at tighthead. 

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Sevu Reece is a new star of this All Blacks team.

Source: AAP/PA Images

Rieko Ioane, Ryan Crotty, and Ben Smith – all left out of today’s matchday 23 – were starters in the backline, while Damian McKenzie, now injured, was a second playmaker from 15.

Clearly, a huge amount has changed for the All Blacks in the 11 months since that 16-9 loss in Dublin.

“We have changed a number of things, some of those because of performances last year which we weren’t entirely proud of,” said assistant coach Ian Foster. “You learn your lessons at the time and you take them forward and then you evolve them.”

The All Blacks’ changes are one reason today’s contest in Tokyo Stadium [KO 11.15am Irish time, eir Sport/RTÉ] is so intriguing. 

Ireland’s record of two wins in their last three games against the All Blacks is another factor, but the Kiwis feel their alterations make those defeats less relevant.

The fact that this is a World Cup quarter-final, rather than a November Test, is yet another element of interest. This is very much the real deal.

New Zealand are the favourites here and Ireland winning would certainly count as a surprise, but it has been difficult to escape the optimism around Joe Schmidt’s squad this week, the confidence that they have the tools required to stifle and overcome the Kiwis.

That said, Schmidt will have reminded his men of the All Blacks’ qualities, from the mobility of hookers Codie Taylor and Dane Coles, the fine handling skill of tighthead Nepo Laulala, and the grizzled lock play of Brodie Retallick – who is short of game time – and Sam Whitelock.

The back row of Savea, Cane and captain Kieran Read are only starting together for the fourth time, but they are three high-quality individuals who hit hard and never stop working.

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Kieran Read will be under pressure as captain.

Source: Adam Davy

Aaron Smith is the best passer in the game, while out-half Richie Mo’unga has added controlling skills and even more pace to this All Blacks team. Leaving out Crotty in midfield was a big call and one

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