Rugby World Cup 2019: Five big things from the All Blacks' big win over Ireland

OPINION: Here are five things to take from the All Blacks v Ireland encounter in Tokyo.

The All Blacks are really, really good

 

Okay, so we knew that already, but this was a litmus test.

The Irish have given the All Blacks fits in recent years, but there was a massive gap in class between these two sides.

Fifty-six minutes into the test, New Zealand had missed a total of one tackle - one tackle. 

They were vicious at the breakdown - if not a little illegal at times - but their physicality intimated an Irish side that was in the headlights.

Make no mistake, England pose a completely different threat with game-breakers all over the park, but the All Blacks made a World Cup statement in Tokyo that has put Eddie Jones on notice.

Kieran Read had been holding back 

 

The All Blacks captain has had an indifferent two-year period, but, boy, was he back to his 2011 best in Tokyo. His defence was bone-crunching, he made metres in spades and his offload ability hit new heights.

Read set the tone from the first few minutes and his boys followed him with similar intent. The outgoing All Blacks captain has another big challenge next week, but for now, it's safe to say the haters are silent. 

The twin pivots are difference-makers

 

Richie Mo'unga was simply magnificent, but he should buy Beauden Barrett a couple of high-quality beers tonight. Barrett takes eyes away from Mo'unga, who thrives in the space provided by his more experienced mentor.

Aaron Smith is free to choose left or right at every ruck, knowing he has two of the best playmakers in world rugby at his disposal.

Both are masters of the kicking game, but their ability to seize on any attacking opportunity handed to them separates this All Blacks side from the rest of the world... or does it?

More on that later.

Aaron Smith is the world's best halfback again 

 

Conor Murray has had the wood over the ABs' No.9 since Chicago - both with Ireland and the British & Irish Lions.

But Smith has slowly worked himself into near career-best form this season and in Tokyo, he was simply sublime. He provided a constant threat around the ruck, but his option-taking was superb and his pass was quite simply bullet-like.

With two playmakers either side of him, he dictates the direction and the pivots follow. 

Rugby World Cup 2019: Five big things from the All Blacks' big win over Ireland

All Blacks v England will be epic 

 

Ireland are a good rugby side, but lack the class and X-factor to break a game open. England have that all over the park.

Manu Tuilagi, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Mario Itoje and Jonny May - to name a few - will cause the All Blacks headaches next week. This will be a battle of epic proportions.

The England forward pack is mobile and powerful and skilful... right up there with the All Blacks forwards.

Owen Farrell wore the No.10 jersey against the Wallabies, but you'd have to think Eddie Jones will consider George Ford as chief playmaker, with Farrell and Tuilagii packing the midfield. That gives England the option of kicking from both sides, much like New Zealand.

Eddie Jones will come prepared, but so will Steve Hansen - this is the game of the tournament and you'd be a brave punter to bet against whoever wins claiming the Webb Ellis Cup next month.

Essential Guide to 2019 Rugby World Cup

Everything you need to know about rugby and the World Cup...

The ninth Rugby World Cup kicks off on September 20 in Japan - the first time it has been hosted in Asia.

Brad Lewis is a Newshub online sports producer.

Join us at 8:15pm Sunday for live updates of the Wales v France Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

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