Ireland send warning to All Blacks: We've not fired yet

3:52 pm on 8 October 2023
Ireland winger James Lowe scores a try for Ireland against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup.

Ireland winger James Lowe scores a try for Ireland against Scotland at the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Photosport

Ireland coach Andy Farrell believes his team have not played their best rugby yet at the Rugby World Cup after booking a quarter-final against the All Blacks.

The Irish ruthlessly took their chances in the 36-14 win over Scotland to set up a last-eight meeting with three-times champions New Zealand back at Stade de France next weekend.

"I don't think and neither does the team think that we have played our best rugby," Farrell said.

"We know where we want to go and what we want to achieve.

"Will we ever get there? I don't know. But it's days like next week that are coming where we need to find out a bit more about ourselves and these lads are more than willing to do that."

Ireland, who have never won a knockout match at a World Cup, dismantled a Scottish side also looking to advance to the knockout stages, scoring early and scoring often to extend their winning streak to 17 straight games.

They had to get through a period of sustained pressure from the Scots after their first try, however, and Farrell thought the way the held firm then struck back at the other end was the key to the match.

"When you see how we were clinical and add how we were defending, it is a shot in the arm for us and a hammer blow for the other team," Farrell said.

There were a few injuries to concern Farrell, however, with wingers Mack Hansen and James Lowe forced off the pitch and lock James Ryan needing attention.

"Mack went off with a HIA (head injury assessment) and felt his calf straight away so we got him off," he said. "James Ryan has a bit of a knock on his wrist that we need to assess more, so we will see how he is.

"James Lowe got a bang in the eye, it shut and he couldn't see much, his vision was coming back towards the end of the game, which is good."

The crowd of vocal Irish supporters outnumbered the Scottish fans considerably, creating a raucous atmosphere as they had at the same stadium when Ireland beat South Africa earlier in the pool stage.

"We play for them, I was talking about it earlier when we were in the dressing room," Farrell said.

"It's more important than people think. When we get back to training on Monday, we'll be doing it for them."

Ringrose shines for adaptable Ireland

If Ireland are to break their quarter-final jinx, they will need to continue to show the adaptability that helped them crush Scotland.

Halfback Jamison Gibson-Park ended up playing part of the second half on the wing, which did not seem to cause him too much trouble.

"I felt like a fish out of water at one stage but we do a fair work on covering positions in scenarios like that," man of the match Gibson-Park said after Ireland's 36-14 victory, their 17th in a row.

It was, however, Ireland' work in the midfield that made the difference in the opening half.

They used the legitimate fear Bundee Aki creates to use Garry Ringrose as their main midfield weapon.

Leading the tournament in runs - 53 before kickoff - Aki was targeted by the Scottish defence, but it freed his centre partner Ringrose and the 28-year-old delivered.

Ringrose's brilliant foray through the midfield led to Ireland's first try after 63 seconds and he set up Hugo Keenan for his team's second.

Ringrose had a quieter second half, until the 57th minute, when with most of the Scotland defence again fixating on Aki, he found himself on the left wing to collect a cross-field kick and touch down for Ireland's sixth try.

Ringrose finished the game having made 57 metres - only beaten on the Irish side by double try-scorer Keenan - and with three clean breaks.

"I thought our first-phase attack was as good as it's been for quite some time which was great for us but a hammer blow for them," Ireland coach Andy Farrell told a press conference.

"The way we attacked the Scottish line was clinical."

Ireland have never made it past the last eight at a World Cup and will face three-times champions New Zealand for a place in the semi-finals, but they have won their last two encounters in comprehensive fashion.

Ireland beat the All Blacks for the first time in 2016, although their last meeting at the World Cup ended in a bitter 46-14 defeat in the quarter-finals.

"Well it's what dreams are made of. As far as a quarter-final is concerned it doesn't get any tougher, the respect we have got for New Zealand is through the roof and hopefully they have got a bit of respect for us," Farrell said.

- Reuters