Schmidt's Irish eye making more history against All Blacks

Pirate IRWIN
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Six Nations champions Ireland host world champions New Zealand with the latter's coach Steve Hansen saying whoever wins will be the best team in the world

Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland host world champions New Zealand on Saturday in what could be termed an unofficial global final less than a year from the real thing.

Certainly All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes whoever wins the tasty encounter between the two top-ranked teams at Lansdowne Road -- it would be Ireland's first home win over their opponents -- would deserve to be rated the best in the world.

His Ireland counterpart and fellow Kiwi Joe Schmidt masterminded his side's historic first success over the All Blacks in Chicago in 2016. He is more understated about the significance of Saturday's game, but recognises victories over New Zealand are rare for any team.

"Look, it's always an achievement to beat the All Blacks, that's why we limit ourselves to just once every 115 years," the 53-year-old joked.

Schmidt, who has been mentioned as a potential All Blacks coach, will announce by the end of the month whether he plans to stay when his Ireland contract runs out after the World Cup.

"I think when they first turned up in 1905 they were incredibly tough to knock over and I don't think they've changed too much.

"Their depth of experience, the number of centurions, or guys with 70, 80 caps, it is formidable.

"And it would be a huge feather in these players' cap if they could topple them on Saturday."

Schmidt admits his side must not repeat the errors that cropped up in the 28-17 win over Argentina last Saturday.

"It's a results driven industry," he said.

"You've got to get the result at the end of the day and I suppose one of the negatives of climbing your way up the rankings is that I think expectations change and it's not enough to win.

"The one exception in world rugby is any old win will do against the All Blacks,

"I'll take 3-0."

Schmidt will hope that without his talismanic scrum-half Conor Murray, who has not played this season due to a neck injury, fly-half Johnny Sexton will be able to orchestrate matters as well with Kieran Marmion alongside him.

- 'A trick or two' -

Should the half backs gel, Sexton's battle with his opposite number Beauden Barrett could prove decisive.

"Johnny creates space because of his timing and his acumen," said Schmidt.

"I'm not saying that Beauden Barrett doesn't have that.

"I think it's just a real strength of Johnny."

Hansen, who will bid next year to win successive World Cups as coach, thinks Schmidt, despite his denials, will have a trick or two up his sleeve.

"They're probably the team in World Rugby who hang onto the ball the most," sad Hansen.

"If they don't get what they want they take to the air... They've got a good kicking game.

"You've got to admire all of that.

"It's winning. They'll punish you. They'll find a weakness and he's pretty good, Joe at finding a trick or two, so we'll be expecting one or two coming our way Saturday."

Hansen, who knows a thing or two about pulling tricks out of his hat, guided the All Blacks to another Rugby Championship title this year but suffered a surprise home defeat to South Africa along the way.

He said that losing a game can help a team.

"You certainly have a look at yourself a bit better," said Hansen.

"It's one of the conundrums, isn't it, when you're winning, how you continue to keep winning and learning at the same time.

"For Ireland, that's something they're trying to master for themselves at the moment.

"It's a difficult thing to do."

The winning conundrum is one either coach will be more than happy to have come the final whistle on Saturday.