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OPINION:It is time for Ardie Savea to prove himself at international level.
We all know how brilliant he is for the Canes, breaking tackle after tackle, burgling at the breakdown, generally throwing his weight around. But can he do it in a World Cup knockout match? Can he physically impose himself against men who will want to rip his limbs off?
It’s a huge question, and one that may just hold the key to the All Blacks success at the 2019 World Cup. The All Blacks know what Ireland will bring. They have beaten New Zealand in two of the last three games between the teams, and they have taken them on physically.
The one time that the All Blacks beat Ireland was on that infamous day in Dublin when they beat them up. Under the new protocols there would have been hardly a man in a black shirt left on the pitch that day. It was brutal and it should have been unacceptable. Happily World Rugby have finally removed such thuggery as an option.
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We should not mourn that. No one plays the beautiful game better than the All Blacks. Give these backs possession and they will win you the game. But first the All Blacks have to win the breakdown against Ireland. No area has been more important to the success of teams at this World Cup.
Ireland subdued Samoa in their last match because they dominated them at the breakdown in the opening 20 minutes. It was slickly coached and it was beautiful to watch. Take the try that Tadgh Furlong scored when he barrelled over.
Ireland won a lineout ball and then put on a big drive. Murray gave to ball to CJ Stander who carried into contact with Furlong and Iain Henderson driving on and cleaning out alongside. Then Tadgh Beirne carried with Cian Healy and Rory Best cleaning. Finally Bundee Aki went over the gain line with Henderson and Robbie Henshaw in behind.
These were not just men doing a chore. These were men hitting contact like Ma’a Nonu coming onto a short ball. Henshaw in particular was explosive. Time and again he made a real difference to Ireland’s momentum.
It was Henshaw’s impact at that third breakdown which
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