Ollie Ritchie: How All Blacks can overcome Irish onslaught in Rugby World Cup quarter-finals

OPINION: If the All Blacks - and the rest of the rugby world - weren't on notice already, they certainly are now.  

Ireland's demolition of Scotland to secure top spot in Pool B and a quarter-final date with the All Blacks proved just why so many are talking about them as world champions-in-waiting.

It's not an unfair title to bestow on them either. Andy Farrell's side have well and truly set the standard at this World Cup, and it will take the performance of a lifetime to get past them.

Such a performance is not out beyond the All Blacks, but if they're to produce it, they must get several areas right.

All Blacks challenge Ireland with a pre-game haka.
All Blacks challenge Ireland with a pre-game haka. Photo credit: Photosport

The Start

The way the All Blacks start at Paris may well define how their quarter-final plays out.

A slow start could kill their chances before they've even begun and if the opening half hour plays out the way it did against Uruguay, they could be in for a long night at Stade de France.

A fast start can suck some energy out of the Irish and, more importantly, the 60-odd thousand fans expected to make the trip from Dublin. Scoreboard pressure can be vital and if Ireland get behind early on a stage where they've never won before, suddenly it's advantage All Blacks.

The Breakdown 

This is where Ireland can really hurt teams. Peter O'Mahony and Josh van der Flier are two of the best in the world at disrupting opposition ball there, they thrive off the collision and are both 80-minute workhorses, who break teams down with their 'jackal' and physicality.

The Irish will pounce on any All Black shortcomings, so they must be razorsharp in this area. The work of Sam Cane, Ardie Savea and company will be crucial for New Zealand. They must be efficient, they must be accurate and they must be disciplined.


Which segways nicely to the next point - discipline, discipline, discipline.

This has not been a strong part of the All Blacks game at this tournament - they conceded a whopping 12 penalties to France's four in their opening match. It's improved across their last two pool matches, but it must be spot on against Ireland.

If the All Blacks start leaking penalties, they may start leaking points too, and once Ireland get ahead on the scoreboard, they are almost impossible to rope in. Cards are a killer at any stage of the tournament, but if the All Blacks find themselves down to 14 men, that could be curtains.

Johnny Sexton v Richie Mo'unga 

Nothing surprising in one of the key match-ups being the battle of the 10s, but Sexton and Mo'unga are both crucial ingredients in their side's ability to succeed.

Johnny Sexton & Richie Mo'unga
Johnny Sexton & Richie Mo'unga Photo credit: Getty

Sexton has steered the Irish ship to perfection in France, he plays with so much time on the ball and has made a habit of putting Bundee Aki through holes, for the blockbusting second-five to cause damage.

Equally, when Mo'unga is on, he is up there with the best in the world and is the key to unlocking the All Blacks attack.

Whichever first-five finds the upper hand at Paris and gets their team on the front foot will go a long way to booking a semi-final berth.  

Ollie Ritchie is Newshub's rugby reporter at the World Cup. Join us at 8am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Ireland quarter-final