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Northern attention switches to All Blacks-Ireland


    13 Mar 2018     Perform

For two years the English have lamented the fact there was no Test scheduled against the All Blacks until 2018 but their losses to Scotland and France in the Six Nations, with Ireland looking to make it three in a row at the weekend, has changed the pecking order for the tour.


All Blacks coach Steve Hansen acknowledged the Irish threat in a press conference in Christchurch on Monday and the British media have also shifted their emphasis.

In the Guardian Robert Kitson said in reaching a World Rugby ranking of second at the weekend, for only the second time since the rankings were introduced, it was a question of how much further the green machine of Ireland go?

"The All Blacks remain well out in front by anyone who has studied Ireland's steady development under [coach] Joe Schmidt will be aware there is potential to narrow the gap.

"To watch Garry Ringrose ease impressively back into the fray against Scotland, to see Jacob Stockdate threatening the Six Nations try-scoring record and glimpse the obvious potential of Jordan Larmour is certainly to be excited about the squad's attacking potential. With the unsung Dan Leavy, James Ryan and Andrew Porter also making an impact up front, Ireland's strength in depth has never been greater," he said.
There was still a chance Ireland could be denied would be a third Grand Slam by England and there were plenty of lessons from England about the danger of looking too far ahead.

But if they should win, Kitson said the fact remained, "Over the next 18 months, either way, opportunity knocks for Irish rugby like never before."

And if Ireland do win, the focus will shift to next season and that November clash in which, if Ireland win all their matches in their June tour of Australia, they would have the chance to equal the All Blacks and England's run of 18 consecutive Test wins

In the Irish Independent Eamonn Sweeney said Schmidt was the greatest manager [coach] in Irish sporting history in winning three Six Nations titles in five year. When taking over the job in 2013 Ireland had won only three of its 10 previous Six Nations games.

But Schmidt led them to successive titles.

"He might have attained legendary status in just his third game in charge had the All Blacks not engineered a try in added time to deny Ireland an historic win which, it turned out, was just being postponed for a short while. While watching New Zealand go through phase after phase at the death while knowing that a single mistake would spell defeat, you marvelled at the sang-froid and precision. What would it be like to follow a team like that?

"You know now," he said.