Kiwi pundits write off Ireland’s quarter-final hopes

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Former All Blacks halfback and commentator Justin Marshall. Hannah Peters/Getty Images/AFP

All Blacks players and coaching staff may be paying due respect to Ireland ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash on Saturday but Kiwi pundits have dismissed the prospect of an upset victory for Joe Schmidt’s men.

While Ireland entered the tournament ranked number one in the world and have won two of their last three meetings with the All Blacks, unconvincing performances in the pool stages have left New Zealand commentators supremely confident of victory.

Former All Black half-back Justin Marshall said Ireland had failed to reach the standards they set in recent years.

“They’ve got a little laborious in the way they’ve been attacking. They’re predictable,” he told Newshub.

“The All Blacks will be up for it and I think we could actually see them put some points on them and win quite comfortably.”

He also pointed to Ireland’s poor record of seven defeats from seven appearances in sudden-death matches at the World Cup.

“World Cups are about making sure when there are opportunities you grab that moment . . . Ireland, historically, have not done that,” he said.

‘Ominous form’

Radio New Zealand’s Hamish Bidwell wrote off Ireland as “a spoiling team”, adding “playing much actual rugby eludes them.”

“Conditions [will] suit athletes and players with skill and vision. New Zealand have an abundance and Ireland few, if any,” he said. “Provided the All Blacks get enough quick ball, they’ll win by 10 to 15 points.”

Liam Hyslop of stuff.co.nz tipped a similar winning margin for the All Blacks as they chase a third straight World Cup title and fourth overall.

“The men in black look in ominous form this tournament and should blow away an Ireland team which was simply overwhelmed by Japan in pool play. New Zealand by 15,” he wrote.

Former New Zealand loose forward Zinzan Brooke did not even discuss the Ireland match in his assessment of the All Blacks’ campaign, skipping forward to an anticipated semi-final against England.

“I do fear the England semi-final,” he told the Rugby Paper.

“If the two teams do meet, which I expect them to, it could come down to a toss of the coin on the day. Top sport is about close margins and I can’t see much between them.”

World-Cup-winning ex-forward Buck Shelford was more cagey, tipping a New Zealand win but warning a strong start would be crucial.

“What we don’t want is to give the Irish an early sniff, allow them to build a lead and then control the pace of the game,” he told the New Zealand Herald.

“We need to start well, rattle them early and not let them recover.”