Rugby World Cup: All Blacks coach Ian Foster turns up heat on Ireland before quarter-final encounter

All Blacks coach Ian Foster insists he's not the kind of coach to buy into the traditional sporting trope of underdogs and favourites.  

But that doesn't mean he's too shy to take the opportunity to pile some pressure on the opposition, especially when the stakes are as high as they'll be when his All Blacks lock horns with Ireland in a quarter-final bout in Paris on Sunday (NZ time).

"This is probably their moment," Foster said on Monday. 

"If they're ever going to win a World Cup, they'll probably feel like it's now, we've got some players [too] and as a team we're kind of in the same mode, so it's pretty exciting."

It's a match-up befitting a final, one pencilled in since long before the World Cup even kicked off. Ireland entering off the back of three wins in their last four against the New Zealanders, including last year's historic test series triumph in Aotearoa – all reasons why the bookies have them tagged as the odds-on winners. 

The All Blacks eager for revenge against a side that has never won a World Cup knockout match – a record they're desperate to break – and haven't shied away from that motivation.

All Blacks veterans Dane Coles and Beauden Barrett have both admitted "payback" is on their minds this weekend, and Foster has no qualms with such inspiration.

"It's okay for some people to take some losses more personally than others, that's what I love about Dane [Coles]," Foster added.

Foster with Irish captain Johnny Sexton after the All Blacks' defeat in Wellington last year.
Foster with Irish captain Johnny Sexton after the All Blacks' defeat in Wellington last year. Photo credit: Photosport

"When they came to New Zealand, they said it at the time, they felt they took something from us. It was a massive achievement for them to win on New Zealand soil. But there's been a lot of water under the bridge since then, and I think in this World Cup it's all about this game."  

"We know them pretty well; they know us pretty well. Both teams will try to surprise around the edges, but the game is going to be about disciplined defence, about intensity at the breakdown, body height and winning corners.  

"We know that against Ireland, and they will know that about us too. We've got a pretty clear idea about the strengths they will bring."

The scenario the All Blacks face against Ireland is eerily reminiscent of the one they found themselves back at the 2019 tournament.

The men in green followed up their first-ever test win over the All Blacks with a hard-fought defeat in Dublin that same month, before edging the New Zealanders at the same venue two years later.

That run of results saw Irish hopes at an all-time high heading into their quarter-final in Tokyo, only to see their side run off the park in a 42-19 demolition by Steve Hansen's men. 

Four years later, both teams look decidedly different. Particularly Ireland, who have used their tantalising run in Japan as a launching pad to the top of World Rugby's ranking and the most formidable rugby force on the planet over the last Cup cycle.

A dogged win over the defending champion Springboks in the match of the World Cup to date has only further solidified that status, and they fired another undeniable warning shot with their blitzkrieg of the Scots on Sunday.

"They've played together a long, long time, and they've got some long-established combinations," Foster noted.  

"They know their game really clearly... but you've got to give them credit. Sometimes if you know your game you can get a bit bored. They're clearly not.  

"We've got massive respect for how they’ve grown the last few years. We've been at the receiving end and also been able to overcome that.  

"We know them, they know us. It's a great mental challenge."

Another mental hurdle Foster points out is Ireland's prospect of equalling the All Blacks' record for tier one nations of 18 test wins, which dates back to last year's first-test loss at Eden Park.

As an assistant to the NZ team that set the mark, one which – coincidentally enough – came to end against Ireland that famous day at Chicago' Soldier Field, Foster says he's familiar with the unique kind of burden it carries and is all too willing to provide his opponents a timely reminder.

"It does get hard," Foster remarked. "It becomes something on your shoulders and you become a target.  

"You can believe in the past and because it worked yesterday, it's going to work tomorrow. They're traps.

"I know we tried to overcome them and they would have done the same."

Inflicting the same record-breaking snapping defeat on the Ireland this weekend woul be some kind of poetic justice.  

That, or Foster's All Blacks tenure comes to a jarring halt.

Join us at 8am Sunday for live updates of the All Blacks v Ireland quarter-final