Former Ireland international, Shane Byrne, believes that an Irish win today against New Zealand will put to bed the idea that Ireland’s win in Chicago was “a flash in the pan.”
Joe Schmidt’s men face the world champions in the Aviva Stadium this evening, two years on from their famous victory in Soldier Field, Chicago which proved to be their first competitive win over New Zealand in 113 years.
Some in the rugby circles have dismissed that win given that the All Blacks were missing a number of key players that day, such as their record-breaking second-row partnership of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. Byrne insists that Ireland have to prove their worth again today, against one of their strongest starting teams.
“New Zealand would always whinge that they lost in Chicago with not their top, top side out. In particular, they were missing Retallick and Whitelock in the second row who is definitely the beating heart of the team. Retallick, in particular, is the best second row in the world hands down. If you’re going to beat New Zealand, you want to beat the best side that they can possibly put out which is exactly what they’ve put out this weekend.”
“They literally could not have picked a better side. Sonny Bill Williams is out but the guys on instead of him are 50+ capped players. I think when you’re talking about the James Ryans, Tadhg Furlongs, Johnny Sextons, I still think you got a team that can defeat that. That would dispel all doubts about whether Chicago was a flash in the pan and then all bets are off for the World Cup.”
Ireland have been hit with a number of key injuries ahead of today’s fixtures with the likes of Conor Murray, Sean O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw ruled out earlier this week while Dan Leavy became a late withdrawal just yesterday.
Despite this, the former Leinster hooker maintains that Ireland have a squad capable of overthrowing the number one team in the world and points to the young players as the driving force, especially the explosive James Ryan.
“I think parity has been reached in so many different ways across the pitch, at set piece, at scrum time, line out. It will be the tiny margins that see you through. The home factor will go in Ireland’s favour but I just think more than anything else, that this young group of players that Ireland have, they don’t care who they are playing against. They just know the winning mentality.”
“These young players just want to win, end of story. To them, the fact that they’re playing New Zealand, it’s just another team that they’re playing against. OK, they’re very aware of the history and all that but do you think James Ryan is going to be concerned about playing against anyone else in the form that he is in at the moment? I don’t think so.”
“You talk about the mouth-watering prospects, Barrett/Sexton, but listen, you have Brodie Retallick who’s the greatest second row in the world and in my min,d James Ryan is his heir apparent who will get that title, it’s just a matter of time.”
Kick off in the Aviva Stadium is 7pm.
Volkswagen, proud partner of Irish Rugby, will be putting Irish and New Zealand fans head-to-head in a rugby trivia quiz this Saturday at the Volkswagen FanTV area on Landsdowne Road. Join Irish rugby legend Shane Byrne and test your rugby knowledge to win signed jerseys. For more information see Volkswagen Ireland’s social channels.