Ollie Ritchie: What Ireland's Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa means for the All Blacks

OPINION: Well, the standard at this Rugby World Cup has well and truly been set.  

Ireland and South Africa played out a World Cup classic at Stade de France. It was played at frantic pace, with skill execution of the highest quality and the passion that comes with two proud rugby nations.

Ireland deserved their five-point victory. It wasn't a pointsfest, but it didn't need to be - Ireland wore down the Springboks.  

They forced them to try and chase the game. Yes, South Africa were inaccurate with the boot and let points go begging at Stade de France, but Ireland meticulously broke down the Springboks' usual crash and bash style of play. 

Ireland's James Lowe.
Ireland's James Lowe. Photo credit: Getty Images

They laid the blueprint for the sort of performance it will take to win this World Cup. It's the sort of performance the All Blacks haven't got close to in France.

Barring major upsets in the rest of poolplay - New Zealand losing to Italy or Ireland losing to Scotland - the All Blacks will face the Irish in the quarter-finals.

If they put out the sort of erratic, ill-disciplined display they did against the Springboks at Twickenham or France in their tournament opener - even stages of their thrashing of Namibia - then the All Blacks won't get close to Ireland.

Despite their lineout starting off on the shakiest of ground, Ireland overcame their early wobbles, they didn't succumb to them. They found breakdown dominance and generally won the physical battle.

Few can say they've done that against the Springboks.

The sight of Ireland winger James Lowe manhandling Eben Etzebeth, holding up the bruising lock to win another turnover, will no doubt be etched in Etzebeth's mind for the rest of the tournament.

It should be etched in the All Blacks' too. If Lowe can do that to Etzebeth, what could he - and the bigger bodies in the Irish side - do to the All Blacks?

Coach Ian Foster's side must start, not just winning the physical battle, but dominating it. They haven't done that in France so far.

They badly miss Shannon Frizell's impact and could really do with a dose of Ethan Blackadder. Those two can have the sort of impact the All Blacks will need against Ireland.

Bundee Aki was a human wreckingball for Ireland. In fact, he's a walking gain-line.

He got the better of Damian de Allende, who's no mug, and had the Springboks defence on the back foot all night.

Jordie Barrett doesn't quite have the same size, but has been a vital cog in the All Blacks midfield. They need him back from the casualty ward asap.

What the weekend's heavyweight showdown showed is the gap emerging between the genuine contenders and the rest.

At this stage, Ireland and South Africa sit comfortably above the rest. So long as influential captain Antoine Dupont can make a return, France could join them.

Ireland celebrate against South Africa.
Ireland celebrate against South Africa. Photo credit: Getty Images

Right now, the All Blacks have to make some big strides. They're a team capable of making them and big wins in the Rugby Championship showed they are worthy of being in that conversation.

Foster will know not everything is going to plan so far, but he will know they're not far off it coming together.

They badly need that to happen before a potential quarter-final clash with Ireland and what felt like half of Dublin in the Stade de France stands.

If Ireland are to lift the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time in their proud history, they may well have to go through the All Blacks, England and South Africa to do it.

That would make them more than worthy world champions.

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter