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The All Blacks. Are there two more evocative, romantic, powerful words in world sport? Is there a team whose name alone can strike as much fear and awe into their opponents, before a ball has been kicked?
It’s time to meet again. On Saturday Ireland will play New Zealand for the fifth and final time in the Joe Schmidt era. It’s a Rugby World Cup quarter-final – it’s a cup final.
It is arguably the biggest game in Irish rugby history. Qualifying for a maiden semi-final by beating the back-to-back defending champions would arguably be the Irish rugby team’s finest achievement, ever.
Ireland’s tournament is yet to really catch fire. They impressed against Scotland, before being blitzed by Japan and looking cumbersome against Russia. A dominant win over Samoa has smoothed the edges and offered a glimmer of hope.
As for the All Blacks? They saw the South African challenge on the opening weekend and they met it. They have been lurking in the long grass ever since, a brooding, ominous shadow cloaking the whole competition.
On Saturday morning the two sides meet in Tokyo. The odds are against Ireland but if one group of players know how to beat New Zealand it’s this Irish side – they did it less than a year ago.
This could be the last match of the Schmidt years. It could be Johnny Sexton’s last stand. It could be a game for the ages. Here is everything you need to know, as Ireland take on the All Blacks.
What is it?
Ireland against New Zealand, in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, at the Tokyo Stadium
When is it?
Saturday, October 19th.
What time is it on?
The match kicks off at 11.15am Irish time (7.15pm local time).
How can I follow it?
The usual suspects – RTÉ 2, Eir Sport and ITV – are broadcasting the match, with all three kicking off at 7.30am for England v Australia (8.15am), before following straight into the Ireland game.
You can also follow the match via The Irish Times live blog – we’ll be covering England against the Wallabies before switching across into the main event, as soon as the first game is over (10.45am, ish).
The story so far
After a summer of discontent Ireland began their RWC campaign with a bang, blowing Scotland away with a 27-3 win in Yokohama. They were brought crashing back to earth by a vibrant, fizzing Japan side a week later, their 19-12 defeat ultimately sealing their fate and leading them into Saturday’s clash with the world champions. They secured a bonus point with a 35-0 win over Russia and then thrashed Samoa 47-5 in the final round – a competent and clinical performance.
As for New Zealand, they opened their campaign with a 23-13 win over a resurgent South Africa side who were fresh off the back of winning the Rugby Championship. The Springboks flew out of the blocks in Yokohama but the Kiwis weathered the storm before going for the jugular in thrilling, incisive fashion. It was the performance of champions. They then followed up with a 63-0 win over Canada – it could have been 163-0 – before routing Na
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