Five reasons why Ireland can achieve their second ever victory over the All Blacks
Steve Hansen has had no hesitation in boarding the hype train. Regardless of what happens to World Rugby's rankings afterwards, he reckons the winner at the Aviva Stadium should be seen as the best team on the planet. Here are questions that could decide who comes out on top.
Irish nerves of steel
Against Argentina, Ireland secured the kick-off before cycling swiftly through eight phases. This was reminiscent of how they have played during Joe Schmidt's tenure, trusting their attacking continuity and everything that entails – breakdown accuracy, tight support lines, sharp yet low-risk ball movement – from anywhere on the field.
This approach underpinned their win over New Zealand in Chicago two years ago. Put simply, the longer you can keep the ball, the longer the All Blacks are starved of it. New Zealand are also deadly in transition situations brought about by kicks. Keeping the ball in hand obviously limits those opportunities.
Last weekend, Ireland spurned numerous early chances to box-kick. Hooker Agustin Creevy and centre Matias Orlando punished them. They swarmed a ruck with just 86 seconds on the clock, winning a penalty for Argentina:
This was one of just two rucks Ireland surrendered in the game. Opta data outlines that they won another 145. But Ardie Savea and Sam Whitelock both won jackal turnovers against England, while Brodie Retallick poses another significant threat on the floor.
Expect New Zealand to compete extremely hard at breakdowns between Ireland's 22 and their own 10-metre line if the hosts sweep through phases.
Hansen's call to retain Damian McKenzie at full is an interesting one. The 23 year-old's performance against England was something of a curate's egg.
His positional error led to Chris Ashton's try. He struggled under the high ball, conceding six turnovers before being replaced by Richie Mo'unga. However, when England kicked aimlessly and imparted a disjointed chase, McKenzie sliced them apart.
At a shade under 5ft 8in tall, McKenzie can certainly be targeted in the air. Ireland's first-five Johnny Sexton and halfback Kieran Marmion will hoist kicks for Jacob Stockdale and Rob Kearney to contest.
Argentina fullback Emiliano Boffelli held firm in Dublin, dry conditions are forecast, and New Zealand's wings Ben Smith and Rieko Ioane are both athletic and reliable. Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett will give them plenty to pursue as well. A compelling cat-and-mouse exchange awaits.
Scott Barrett's arrival from the bench allowed New Zealand to flip to a 'mirror defence' against England, helping them to plunder five lineouts. Before Barrett's introduction, they had not stolen a single throw.
Even so, Hansen resists the urge to slot in the Crusaders lock at blindside flanker, preferring to keep rangy runner Liam Squire there. Squire is a more mobile, destructive carrier than Barrett and thrives in the wide channels. Watch out for him holding width as New Zealand attempt to outmanoeuvre Andy Farrell's aggressive defence with wide passing and stabbed cross-field kicks.
Hansen will hope that Retallick, Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read can disrupt Ireland's lineout without Barrett's help. In the absence of Devin Toner, among the replacements against Argentina but starting alongside James Ryan this weekend, Schmidt's team lost three of 13 throws.
As for New Zealand's own lineout, spoiler supreme Peter O'Mahony will be immensely valuable. Because, assuming unstructured situations will be kept to a premium, the All Blacks' first-phase platform is going to be vital.
In the end, two midfield bursts from scrums – the first leading to McKenzie's try and the second, following Owen Farrell's over-hit restart, eventually bringing about a Beauden Barrett penalty – undid England.
Ryan Crotty and Jack Goodhue are deceptive powerful, well-balanced runners. Colleagues with the Crusaders, they share a good understanding. And they might just aim to flood Bundee Aki's channel. Although the Pumas' scrum endured another torrid outing, Argentina found some joy there with a first-half strike move.
Ironically, given Sexton's perennial success with wrap-arounds, a loop pattern caused the problem. But just as vital is that a swift pass from scrum-half Tomas Cubelli takes openside flanker Sean O'Brien and scrum-half Marmion out of the game. Nicolas Sanchez feeds Jeromino De La Fuente and arcs around his inside centre as Orlando bolts through on a hard line.
De La Fuente's deception sells the move. After swivelling his head towards Sanchez, he throws a flat pass to Orlando, who breaks between Sexton and Aki. De La Fuente and right wing Bautista Delguy flood through to continue the move and the latter eventually crosses the line.
Later in the first half, another sharp pass from Cubelli isolates the Ireland midfield three. This time, Argentina run a slice that sees De La Fuente fade behind Orlando Boffelli is lurking out wide, Aki bites onto De La Fuente and Boffelli hits the line to make a half-break.
Ireland are indebted to a readjustment from Will Addison, but Aki concedes a penalty for a late tackle on the following phase.
Garry Ringrose, a fine decision-maker either side of the ball, will wear 13 on Sunday. New Zealand may have kept back some of their midfield strike-moves against England, partly because of the sodden conditions and partly because they will not have wanted to show their hand to Ireland.
But you can be sure that Ioane and Ben Smith will join the line liberally and buzz off the shoulders of Crotty and Goodhue.
Sexton suggested earlier this week that Ireland have "come on the wrong side of Wayne Barnes" in the past. In truth, as figures researched and compiled by Russ Petty show, Ireland have hardly been whistled off the park by the English official.
In fact, they have not been on the fat end of a penalty count with Barnes in charge in charge since August 2011.
Barnes will not stand for some of the breakdown behaviour that New Zealand got away with at Twickenham. Yesterday Danny Care expressed his exasperation that Jerome Garces did not award England a penalty in the final 10 minutes.
In truth, Care's vocal efforts to bring New Zealand's non-rolling tacklers to Garces' attention probably did not help England.
If Ireland's ruck-speed leaves All Blacks tacklers obstructing Marmion, Barnes will blow up. So can New Zealand adapt? Almost certainly.
The hope is that another intriguing Test is not decided by a contentious refereeing decision.