It’s going to be three head-to-heads for the Japan 2019 Rugby World Cup quarter-final between title defenders New Zealand and Ireland on Saturday:
Beauden Barrett v Johnny Sexton
Rugby World Player of the Year defender Sexton may need to be at his best to lead his side against the All Blacks of New Zealand, for whom free-running Barrett will start at fullback, Richie Mo’unga lining up at fly-half.
“I think they’re better than a one-man team but your 10’s pretty important. Conor Murray does a lot of kicking and they use Sexton to drive them around the park and their big forwards to carry and why would they want to change? That’s been very successful for them.”Q
Sexton said they would take confidence from the result of the match they have played with them in the past.
“You know how big a task it’s going to be, it’s going to be an incredibly tough game but one we’re looking forward to. I suppose we can take a little bit of confidence from the last few times we’ve played them.” Sexton said.
Kieran Read v CJ Stander
New Zealand All Blacks skipper Read is most likely coming to the end of his career, but the 124-capped number eight would remain a dominant force at the back. Kieran Read will pack down in between Ardie Savea and Sam Cane and will be a real test for the South African-born Stander, who excels with ball in hand.
“It’s a terrific challenge for our boys, especially in the back row up against those guys,” Ireland forwards coach Simon Easterby said.
“There’s lots of intrigue and the back row will be a good one. We’ve come up against those players before and we’ve come off second best, at times, and we’ve got the better of them at times. There are lots of mini-battles going on in the bigger war on Saturday.”
Ireland’s Kiwi-born center Bundee Aki is on a three-match ban for a brutal tackle that ended his World Cup appearance prematurely. But Robbie Henshaw is fit again and will most likely be partnered by Garry Ringrose.
All Blacks Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue are the best starters against Ireland, while we will have Sonny Bill Williams on the bench and Ryan Crotty missing out completely.
“They’ve got great midfield options. I don’t think they’re going to lose too much but Bundee definitely does bring something a little bit different. He’s got great footwork and he sort of brings the X-factor in that way. But it doesn’t matter who they’re going to put out there, their midfield’s quality.” Lienert-Brown said while describing the Ireland squad.