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SCAN DOWN THROUGH the names on this week’s team sheet and it’s easy to understand why Joe Schmidt has selected the way he has for this quarter-final against the All Blacks.
For his toughest challenge yet as Ireland head coach, Schmidt has gone for proven ability and experience in the Test arena.
It’s true that none of this Ireland XV has ever won a World Cup knock-out game – no Irish player has at senior men’s level – but every single one of Schmidt’s starting team has beaten the All Blacks before.
Ireland celebrate last November’s win over the All Blacks.
Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO
They’ve tasted the joy of that achievement and there is an understanding that doing it at a World Cup would bring a completely new level of satisfaction.
Schmidt resisted the temptation to throw a cat amongst the pigeons by selecting Jordan Larmour or Tadhg Beirne or Rhys Ruddock in his starting XV – all three feature on the bench – but it’s understandable that he has gone for Rob Kearney and Peter O’Mahony.
Current form is, of course, crucial but Schmidt remembers Kearney delivering in stunning fashion in Chicago in 2016 when the head coach had put real pressure on the experienced fullback to deliver in that game at Soldier Field.
Schmidt also vividly recalls O’Mahony being an inspirational man of the match last November in Dublin as Ireland repeated the feat against the Kiwis on home soil, the Cork man’s goalkeeper save in the Ireland 22 among his highlights.
While Larmour and Beirne and Ruddock might have added energy and something the Kiwis weren’t expecting, Schmidt has long been a coach who stays loyal to those who have earn
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