The Irish are coming to play the World champion All Blacks (using the term world champion was redundant but I’m not going to apologise, it feels so good to write it). While it may have taken 24 years for the All Blacks to win back the World Cup, the Irish haven’t beaten the All Blacks in 107 years of trying; with a solitary 10 all draw in 1973 their best result. The last time an Irish side beat the All Blacks, (Munster in 1978), they wrote a play about it. If the Irish team wins a test this year, what will be the result of that, a blockbuster trilogy?
|When the All Blacks meet the Irish, will it be|
Paradoxical though it is, considering that the All Blacks are the World Champions and the Irish ranked a lowly eighth in the world, I would suggest that the Irish have a great chance of winning a test this time. The All Blacks may have only lost three home test series (a series of three games or more); to the 1937 Springboks, the 1971 Lions and the 1986 Wallabies (the year of the Baby Blacks and Cavaliers) but for all of their dominance at home, where their winning percentage touches 83%, they have only clean-swept 6 series out of 29. The Wallabies have only been whitewashed once at home in 10 attempts, when the Woeful Wallabies toured here in 1973. The All Blacks do seem to find it tough to win three tests in a row against the same opposition.
|an All Black win and more of the same,|
Saying that, none of the home nations (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have even undertaken a three-test tour of New Zealand. The French have twice and twice they went home beaten 3-0. The Lions have been clean-swept three times (in 1950, 1966 and on their most recent tour in 2005) and that takes the cream of the crop from the home nations. Ireland have played nine tests against the All Blacks in New Zealand, losing the lot obviously with an average score-line of 33-13. These are all stats that don’t suggest the Irish have a hope.
|or something new, with an Irish win.|
But if I was an Irishman, (and don’t we all have a little Irish in us), I’d still be hoping for an upset. The Irish have a sprinkling of world-class players- the likes of Heaslip, O’Driscoll and O’Brien- and on their day can compete with (and beat) the best teams in the world. If you don’t believe it, check out the result when Ireland played the Wallabies in the World Cup, which also shows they could win big tests away from home. Add in the fact that the Irish have had a couple of weeks together whereas the All Blacks will have less than a week together and it's less easy to write off the Irish. So, the All Blacks will have to guard against complacency and find an antidote to the World Cup hangover that seems to be bugging several of the players, to avoid getting the label of the first All Black team to lose to the Irish. Whatever happens though, should be good craic.