Top 10 moments in All Blacks v Ireland history

4:14 pm on 12 October 2023
Ireland players look on as the New Zealand players perform The Haka prior to during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Quarter Final match

Ireland players look on as the New Zealand players perform The Haka prior to during the Rugby World Cup 2019 Quarter Final match Photo: Stu Forster

Sunday morning will see the most important game of the year for the All Blacks. But the fact that it's against Ireland is something that would have been considered quite bizarre not that long ago, given that it took well over a century for this fixture to actually be considered a rivalry at all. That doesn't mean that the All Blacks v Ireland didn't throw up some intriguing moments in that time, so let's have a look back:

1995 - The Jonah Game

The Irish were unlucky enough to be the first side to feel the wrath of a fully unshackled Jonah Lomu, at Ellis Park during the 1995 RWC. Lomu scored two tries and set up another memorable effort for Josh Kronfeld in a performance that grabbed the world's attention, but another important moment was Irish prop Gary Halpin pulling the fingers at the All Blacks after scoring the game's first try.

2016 - Chicago and all that

While Ireland's famous breakthrough win at Soldier Field can really be seen as the side's arrival as a true test rugby powerhouse, it can't be underestimated just what a shock this was at the time for the All Blacks. Steve Hansen's side had not only just won another World Cup, but were unbeaten throughout the whole season and were averaging 42 points a game. There have been persistent rumours that the preparation for the test match was less than ideal, with the All Blacks engaged in more commercial activities than training, while the Irish brought around 90 percent of the crowd with them to watch a well-deserved victory 111 years in the making.

2001 - Richard McCaw's debut

"We will be seeing a lot more of this young guy in the future" said John Mitchell, after the All Blacks 40-29 win was followed by a man of the match award to his debutant flanker, then known as 'Richard' McCaw. Whatever you think of Mitchell's controversial reign as coach, you can't fault him for the foresight in selecting the future two-time World Cup winning skipper, who played a massive hand in the All Blacks' come-from-behind performance after being down 21-7 in the second half.

1972 - Troubles

The All Blacks toured the British Isles amid the worst of the violence caused by the conflict in Northern Ireland, only earlier that year 26 people had been killed in the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Derry. The team was not only sent an ominous letter from the IRA, but also had to play a tour match in Belfast under the watchful eye of armed British troops. The test itself was the first in Dublin in over a year due to IRA threats, which ended in a 10-all draw and was the closest the Irish would get to victory for another 43 years.

The All Blacks run out onto the field in Belfast, 1973

The All Blacks run out onto the field in Belfast, 1973 Photo: PHOTOSPORT

2012 - Introducing some legendary All Blacks

The first test of the 2012 series may well be the most notable in terms of debuts: Aaron Smith, Brodie Retallick and Julian Savea all played their first test in a comfortable 42-19 win over Ireland at Eden Park, with Savea scoring a hat trick. The series itself was an interesting one, the second test saw the All Blacks scrape home 22-19 thanks to a late Dan Carter drop goal, while the third was a 60-0 beatdown that stands as Ireland's heaviest ever defeat.

2019 - World Cup quarter-final

After the Irish beat the All Blacks again, this time in Dublin in 2018, they became the world's top ranked team and favourites for the following year's World Cup. However, they got the speed wobbles, had an awful Six Nations campaign and limped into the quarter finals after losing to Japan. It was never the sort of state you want to be in when you play the All Blacks, who tore the Irish apart 46-14 in what was one of their best performances of the Hansen era.

1989 - Willie Anderson faces down the haka

Probably the most famous Irish-All Blacks pre-Chicago moment was when lock Willie Anderson decided to do the most dramatic haka reaction of all time, charging at the All Blacks and dragging his mostly unwilling teammates with him. He said afterwards that "we didn't budge as the All Blacks broke up to take up their positions for the kick-off. That wasn't planned either but the wee pause added dramatic effect. Then we broke ranks and I waved my arms to encourage the crowd as we went to receive the kick. The noise was incredible. Honestly, I've never been as pumped in all my life. My adrenaline rating would have been off the charts."

2012 - Hosea Gear buries Keith Earls

FMG Stadium Waikato was the scene of one of the best Jonah Lomu impersonations ever, when Hosea Gear take full advantage of his brief time in an All Black jersey. His 55-metre run to the corner had one speed bump, in the form of Keith Earls, who was ruthlessly dispatched to become one of rugby's original viral social media moments. Credit to Earls, who triumphantly returned to New Zealand a decade later to be a part of the series-winning Irish team.

2022 - Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Until they win a World Cup, is this the greatest moment in Irish rugby history? The players certainly thought so, with Bundee Aki and Peter O'Mahoney memorably helping themselves to some fried chicken on Courtenay Place after the stunning third test win. The loss signalled a dramatic period of introspection for the All Blacks, which almost cost coach Ian Foster his job.

2013 - Heartbreakers

Out of all the times that Ireland had lost to the All Blacks in over a century of fixtures, this would eaily rank as the cruelest. Up 19-0 at halftime, the Aviva Stadium crowd were certain they were about to see history getting made. Then came the All Black comeback, sealed with a movement the went 60 metres, 11 phases and through every player's hands till it finally landed in Ryan Crotty's grasp to score a try to make the scores level. The fact that Aaron Cruden's kick was allowed to be retaken twisted the knife just a little bit more, and it sealed a perfect 14 wins from 14 tests season for the All Blacks.