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Rugby World Cup quarter-final: New Zealand v Ireland
Kick-off:11.15am Irish time, Saturday October 19th
How to follow:The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 10.30am
On TV:Live on RTÉ2, Eir Sport and ITV
This it then, the big one, maybe even the biggest of them all. For Ireland to boldly go where no Irish team has ever gone before, not only will they have to be bold, but they will have to probably produce the greatest one-off victory in history. That’s all.
The Green Army have begun arriving in force, and among the well-thronged narrow streets and tiny bars of the Golden Gai on Friday night, in contrast to home, there was an almost giddy air of optimism, which was not entirely fuelled by beer and sake.
In Friday’s chillier temperatures and rain, many were in the tranquil forest of the Meiji Jingu, a shrine to Japan’s ancient Shinto religion. At the heart of the inner garden, many of those Irish supporters were visiting the main shrine building, outside of which was a camphor tree.
Visitors could buy an ema, a wooden tablet, and write a wish list with the tables and pens provided, and hang it one of the hooks which encircled the tree. Most were written in Japanese, and of those in English, happiness, health and family were the overwhelmingly common themes, save for one which simply read: ‘Ireland 28 New Zealand 21.’
Hope was definitely in the air, for another read: ‘Mayo for Sam’.
Yet perhaps it was also mingled with fear. For four of the quarter-finalists, this weekend will mark the end of the road, not only of the 2019 World Cup but in some instances for playing and coaching careers. It’s both a threat and a source of inspiration, and for many of the supporters and vast media throng as well.
Akin to golf’s third round, this is the World Cup’s moving weekend.
The threat is all the more real against the back-to-back world champions. Not only have they never lost a pool match, they have won seven of eight quarter-finals, and excluding third-place playoffs, have won 14 of 19 knockout ties.
By contrast, including a quarter-final playoff, Ireland have lost all seven knockout matches.
Then there’s the task of keeping the All Blacks’ array of game breakers in check.
“They all have great attitudes, they’re all open to new ideas,” said the f
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