Thursday 23 February 2017

David Wallace: It will take a monumental effort but Ireland are capable of it

Super-confident Munster thriving as Joe's boys seek second Kiwi success

David Wallace

Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during squad training at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt during squad training at Carton House, Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Tommy O’Donnell celebrates Munster’s victory over the Maori All Blacks. SPORTSFILE

Last weekend was another great one for Munster and Ireland fans, and hopefully the national side can back that up against New Zealand again tomorrow.

I was trying to note some of the most impressive performers for Munster against the Maori All Blacks last weekend, but the list was just too long. Everyone stood out for one reason or another, and it was the latest in a long line of stunning performances.

Munster have been unbelievable in recent weeks, and it seems like the players have collectively decided that this is the new level expected from them.

Their performance level has not dipped since the first minute of the game against Glasgow Warriors on that emotional occasion in Thomond Park.

They followed that up with a brilliant comeback against Ulster in Kingspan Stadium, then they shut-out an in-form Ospreys side in Irish Independent Park, before last weekend's historic victory over the Maori in Limerick.

This team love their rugby, they love playing together, and no matter who wears the jersey, they all play as one, and the onus is then on the next guy to come in and play to those standards.

Even in the interviews after the games you can see players are enjoying what they are doing. They feed off each other on the pitch, and it's all coming together.

They have a welcome break now and then they will have three new Irish caps in the squad which will help the momentum going forward.

Ireland's clash with New Zealand is the main show in town this weekend, and Joe Schmidt's side should find it easy to big themselves up for this. They can't afford to ease up for this game and they must bring the intensity from the off.

New Zealand come to Dublin with revenge on their minds, they will feel they didn't play as well as they could have two weeks ago, and will be eager to put that right.

The All Blacks are a fantastically talented team and their pride will be hurt from that loss in Chicago, which will help to drive them on even further for this game.

ATMOSPHERE

It's going to be another special atmosphere, and Ireland must reach the levels they did in Chicago again if they want to complete an historic double.

But they will have the confidence that they can do it again, because once you break a losing streak like that it gives you such a confidence boost going forward.

The fact that Ireland know they can play to that level, it's exactly like Munster - a genuine belief within the squad that they can take on teams like this and win, that is a huge positive for team spirit.

Ireland have set the standard now and they will aspire to play to that level every time they get on the pitch from here on. And who better to test yourself against, than the mighty All Blacks once more.

There is a lot of momentum behind the national side, and they have players pushing for places and creating a lot more depth in an already impressive looking squad as was shown against Canada.

It will take a monumental performance against New Zealand, but everyone knows that this group of players are well capable of that now. They just need to tap into their resources and leave it all out on the field.

You should never expect to win a big Test match but you can expect a big performance, and considering where the team is now that should be enough to get them over the line.

I am confident they will put in a really big display but they still need things to go their way. Even if Ireland play to 100 per cent, New Zealand will still be a very dangerous team.

If a game isn't going New Zealand's way for 70 minutes, they can come up with something from nothing, and turn it on. They could be losing late on in a game, but one lapse in concentration could let them in and then the floodgates open if a team doesn't respond.

When Ireland played them in the Windy City, New Zealand went through their purple patch, scored two tries in quick succession and were right back on the cusp of victory before Ireland turned it around again.

It will take all of that experience to get Ireland over the line again, but it would be something else, and here's hoping they can do it.

Irish Independent

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