On a cool Monday morning after the win in Chicago, my postman John Dowling was worried about a backlash from New Zealand in the next game at the Aviva. But I advised him to enjoy winning a battle and leave the war to Joe Schmidt.
It would be very disappointing if the All Blacks did not have a score to settle with Ireland – they are the RWC Champions of 2011 and 2015, the first country to record back to back wins. Up to Chicago they had almost 20 consecutive wins including a world cup and a rugby championship in 2016.
They beat Australia three times and Michael Cheika’s squad demolished Wales at the Millennium in Cardiff on the day we beat the All Blacks (I keep saying that to remind myself of the enormity of the win after a century of rugby).
The Joe Schmidt game plan worked – and we saw an Irish team with a huge commitment and a real desire to win in front of a very partisan Chicago crowd. We have not seen this commitment/desire for a while and it was the missing ingredient at the RWC 2015 and in the Six Nations 2016.
The team also had leadership and I thought that Rory Best excelled in leading from the front and in channelling the energy into the right places on the pitch. It was his finest performance – typified by him calling Josh to one side when he came on to replace the injured Jordi Murphy, to make sure he understood what he was there for.
The tribute to Anthony Foley on the pitch by the Irish team was a wonderful thought to remember the former Irish Coach, in addition to his massive playing contribution to Shannon, Munster (also Head Coach), Ireland and his generous courteous attitude to journalists from all over the world during his career.
So all the journalists will be in speculation mode about the three remaining Guinness Series games at the Aviva in November – 12th Canada, 19th New Zealand, 26th Australia. I hardly need to remind you that the two last games are against the Finalists at the RWC 2015 in Twickenham.
No disrespect to Canada, but these games are serious stuff.
It is hoped that the Canada game will attract a full house now in the Aviva. The other two games are sell outs.
The Joe Schmidt strategy re: selection will come under fair scrutiny, it is pretty obvious that it will be a mix and match for the Canada game with the guts of the All Blacks winning team using the replacements to start and some newcomers from his 35-man squad.
In theory he can add in Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien, Henderson and Earls back from suspension, with Paddy Jackson as part of the equation with the rest of Ireland’s 35-man squad.
Everyone, including Joe Schmidt, is still conscious of the under performance on the world stage at the RWC’s and even though “it is one game at a time”; RWC Japan 2019 is always on the horizon. We need to build a squad under Schmidt who can do us justice all the time in all the matches – “all things to all men”.
There is room for a bit One Up Man Ship (Ceann amhain suas fear long – as gaeilge); Joe could pick the very same team to start at the Aviva against the All Blacks, exluding injuries. This would undoubtedly bring sentiment into the proceedings on the day and the roof would be blown away with the reception.
But there is very little sentiment in professional sport, the players know that, and he will undoubtedly pick his team on form for the day to win the game.
The roof will be blown away anyway!
Frank Quinn, Pundit Arena
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