Saturday evening sees a massive clash at the 2023 Rugby World Cup as Ireland takes on New Zealand at the Stade de France in Paris.
Ireland are the current number-one side in the world on the back of a 17-match winning run, while New Zealand are a three-time World Cup winner, having lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in 1987, 2011, and 2015.
In recent years, an intense rivalry has developed between the two sides and with a spot in the semi-finals on the line, Saturday’s match will be an intense encounter.
The two nations have faced each other 34 times, with the All Blacks winning 28 and Ireland winning six. However, the Irish have won the last two games between the sides.
The All Blacks head into the clash, having finished runner-up in Pool A after losing their opening game to France.
On the other hand, Ireland dominated Pool B, winning all four games, including defeating South Africa and Scotland, looking like the best team in the tournament.
However, Ireland have never made it past the quarter-final stage at a Rugby World Cup, and after two huge pool matches, can they continue their intensity and work-rate into the knockout stages?
New Zealand will look to South Africa’s performance against Ireland as they aim to plot a path to victory.
South Africa should have beaten the Irish, with the Springboks utilising a gameplan that left many feeling they were treating the game as a test run.
They disrupted Ireland’s lineout and missed three penalties, which, if they had landed, would have seen South Africa win.
The All Blacks will relish being underdogs in this tussle, and they did defeat Ireland at this stage of the World Cup in 2019.
The breakdown will be critical on Saturday evening, and this is an area that New Zealand have improved in, thanks in no small part to coach Joe Schmidt, the former coach of Ireland.
If the All Blacks can disrupt Ireland’s lineout and be competitive at the breakdown, an area Ireland typically thrives at.
Throw into the mix that the All Black’s running game will be the best the Irish have faced this tournament and then there’s no reason that New Zealand can’t win this one.
However, that could be easier said than done, but if there’s one side in international rugby that should never be written-off, it’s the All Blacks.
At the odds though, a wager on New Zealand to edge out Ireland looks a solid bet in what should be an absolutely thrilling match.