It’s been two years since Ireland claimed that famous victory over the All Blacks at Soldier Field in Chicago.
When you back to the 60-0 thumping in Hamilton in 2012 or the agonising two-point loss in 2013, Chicago proved to be the remedy for all that hurt as the history of haunting results was finally put to bed.
New Zealand came to Dublin two weeks later and exacted their revenge with a 21-9 win but it didn’t detract from the victory. The mood changed and the belief swelled, Ireland can beat the world champions.
It seems that realisation didn’t just hit home in Ireland, but in New Zealand as well.
The two sides come to blows once again today in the Aviva Stadium but there is extra significance to this clash given New Zealand’s precarious position at the top of the World Rugby rankings. In Twickenham over the weekend, the All Blacks looked far from convincing.
England dominated proceedings for large portions of the game while New Zealand were error-strewn and lost at times. Though they scraped a win in the end, you would imagine they will be marching to Dublin with a point to prove.
Put all these factors together – Chicago in 2016, world rankings and poor performances – and you have all the ingredients for a mammoth battle on Saturday. One man who believes that the game will live up to its expectation is former All Blacks captain, Richie McCaw, who was plenty of experience against the men in green.
“I think there’s a huge amount of anticipation for it. To play against England and then to back it up against the Six Nations champions and the second best side in the world, which they are, it makes for a pretty good couple of weeks of rugby.”
“I think these three weeks and you look at the World Cup next year and it won’t tell you who should do what next year but it gives you a better indication of where teams are at and from an All Blacks point of view, a couple of weeks after the Rugby Championship, the performances are okay but I know they see this as a pretty important run of fixtures leading into next year.”
“I think what happened a couple of years ago at the Chicago game with the All Blacks being beaten has kept them on edge which should be great.”
One match-up that is particularly eye-catching is the back row. During the hard-fought win over Argentina at the weekend, Joe Schmidt lost Sean O’Brien to a broken arm. One of the most talented players Ireland have ever produced and someone McCaw has “a lot of time for”.
Yet Ireland are fortunate to have more depth than ever and so even without the Carlow man’s experience, they should prove a formidable task for New Zealand to cope with. Or so the former flanker expects anyway.
“From personal experience over the years, it was always a hell of a challenge playing against your opposites for the Irish. I can’t see that being any different.”
“I always remember the 2013 game and it was one of the toughest matches I had just in terms of the physicality and the breakdown work that went on. Loosies are a big part of that. As loosies, we always say that the winning and losing of the game was there, even if it’s probably elsewhere!”
“But that goes a long way to how it goes.”
This is the match that all eyes will be on. It used to be a David v Goliath scenario, now it’s the world champions against the team that are desperate to overtake them. Add to that the side stories about Schmidt succeeding Hansen and the injury list, and you have a fixture that could, potentially, be one for the history books.
AIG Ambassador, Richie McCaw was speaking ahead of the All Blacks visit to Ireland. The All Blacks will take on Ireland in Dublin on Saturday 17th November 2018. AIG is a proud sponsor of the New Zealand All Blacks.