We are facing into 2 massive weekends for Irish sport. This weekend the Irish rugby team gets another crack at the unbeaten, unbeatable monsters known as the New Zealand All Blacks. This is followed by ‘the Notorious’ Conor McGregor chasing more history when he fights Eddie Alvarez for the 155lb championship to add to his 145lb belt.
Let’s start with the rugby.
Taking the last 8 matches between the two teams there is a trend of New Zealand being consistent and Ireland being consistently inconsistent. Some of the matches have taken place during an end of season tour which has not been ideal for Ireland, especially added to the AB’s being in their season at that time of year. The last 8 results look like this:
7/6/08 – 21-11
15/11/08 – 3-22
12/06/10 – 66-28
20/11/2010 – 18-38
9/6/2012 – 42-10
16/06/2012 – 22-19
23/06/2012 – 60-0
24/11/2013 – 22-24
As you can see Ireland has been within a score twice and close 1 extra time in 8. The rest have been one sided drubbings.
So now we get to the real questions, can Ireland win? Can Ireland survive? Will the All Blacks implode or become complacent enough to open the door for a first Irish win in history?
If we use logic the answer is no, no and no. If you use the laws of probability, the theory of relativity and any other scientific formula the answers are the same. But this is sport. Sport doesn’t follow logic. A fighter always has a punchers chance and a team can be beaten on any given day. The Irish team must believe this on Saturday.
The psychology of this match is intriguing. Very rarely is there such a massive underdog in sport. Ireland has been written off by every bookmaker and most non Irish pundits. While this may be tough to read for the players and their families, this takes every single ounce of pressure off the team. There is literally nothing on the shoulders of Ireland. This brings a freedom. Like when I spar with the top fighters in the thai boxing gym, I have zero expectations on my shoulders so it frees me up to relax, to trust my skill and instinct and just go for it. Now most of the time I get schooled, but every once in a while I land a punch, draw blood and see a flicker of a question come over my opposition. This is what Ireland need to do. Get in the faces of the AB’s. From the Haka. They need to channel Irish teams of old and stand up from the second they get to the stadium, which will be full of nearly 100,000 people. Mostly Irish visiting a city that will still be drunk from a world series (it is really just rounders) win. This can be channelled. New Zealand is not known for their travelling support, being from the other side of the planet affects people’s ability to travel to follow the team. Ireland will take over that stadium. This is a time that every green jersey will be needed. This will effectively be a home game for Ireland.
For me, I have to believe there is a chance. I believe that Farrell has added a few tricks to the Schmidt playbook and instilled more confidence into the players. There are new faces that have no experience of losing to New Zealand. This is a plus. If Ireland can remain close with 10 minutes to go, that being 5 points max, then the fitness, squad depth and belief is there to trouble the All Blacks.
I believe, but alas I think it might be the favourites by 3.
@nkeegan for more.