Rugby World Cup: All Blacks shrug off rare underdog tag as Ireland await in blockbuster quarter-final

The All Blacks don't often enter any game - especially a World Cup quarter-final - as underdogs, but that's exactly what will happen, when they take the field against Ireland at Paris' Stade de France on Sunday (NZ time).

Given the nature of this weekend's blockbuster, when an All Blacks side seemingly on the ropes come up against the world No.1, bookmakers have New Zealand as outsiders for the first time at this stage of a tournament.  

What's more, the two seedings are completely deserved.  

Ireland are on a run of 17 consecutive test wins and another this weekend would take that total to a world record-equalling 18, held by the All Blacks and England.

The All Blacks' huddle.
The All Blacks' huddle. Photo credit: Getty Images

For the Irish, it's now or never.

Four years ago, coached by Joe Schmidt, they headed to Japan as world No.1, but fell in the quarter-finals against the same opponents they'll meet on Sunday.

While they'd have to make history to overcome coach Ian Foster's men, you'd be hard pressed - outside of New Zealand - to find a fan that'd bet against them this weekend.

That said, there's no such thing as a bad All Blacks side. Already in the past 18 months, this team have done special things when their backs are against a wall.

Last August, they defeated South Africa at Johannesburg in a result that sealed Foster's job security through this year's World Cup.  

While an underdog tag is unwanted, the All Blacks won't be weighed down by Ireland being favourites.

"As a player, it's not a biggie for us," said Richie Mo'unga. "None of the boys are on the TAB or Bet365 punting.

Despite recent success against the All Blacks, Ireland have never won a World Cup knockout match.
Despite recent success against the All Blacks, Ireland have never won a World Cup knockout match. Photo credit: Getty Images

"You can't shy away from the fact how great this Ireland team is. What they've done the last couple of years, defensively, [they're] a really sound team.  

"They're able to put teams in some pressure moments, because of their set-piece and how they play the game.

"They're the best team in the world right now. We don't have to be the best team in the world right now, we have to be the best on the day.

"That's a real target for us and something we're looking forward to."

In fact, being outsiders gives Foster's men the chance to upset the apple cart - a role normally played against them.

Ireland have never won a World Cup quarter-final, a statistic repeatedly mentioned around Paris this week.

While the All Blacks understand the Irish deserve to be favourites, knocking off the world's top-ranked side is a challenge Mo'unga, in particular, relishes.

After all, to be the best, you have to beat the best.  

"The numbers don't lie, they're the best team in the world," he continued. "It's obviously not what I want to be saying in front of you all today, but those are the facts.

"The beauty is we have the opportunity on Saturday to play them. That's the exciting thing about this week - there's no more lives, no more chances.

"The playing field is even when we get out on the pitch. Who's prepared the best, put in the most work, had those conversations around small details around strategy and whatnot... it'll all show on Saturday.

"It's really exciting."

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