New Zealand boss kicks off Ireland mind games ahead of Rugby World Cup clash

Rugby World Cup 2023: Day 20 highlights

New Zealand coach Ian Foster has piled the pressure on Ireland as the two nations prepare for an enticing Rugby World Cup quarterfinal showdown on Saturday. Ireland set up a mouthwatering clash with the All Blacks after breezing past Scotland in the tense group stage finale to clinch top spot in the group, and Foster is relishing the challenge of facing the team of the tournament so far.

Andy Farrell’s men sealed a convincing 36-14 victory over Scotland to make it 17 Test wins in a row and climb above South Africa in Pool B. In doing so, they clinched their place in the quarterfinals and an automatic qualification spot for the 2027 tournament.

The Irish scored four tries with a near-flawless performance after leading 26-0 at the break, with the estimated 50,000-strong Irish contingent inside the Stade de France creating a raucous atmosphere.

Their reward is a tie with 2015 winners New Zealand, who recovered from a shock 27-13 defeat to France in their opening fixture to win their remaining three matches and qualify second in Pool A. But from their previous four match-ups, Ireland have emerged victorious in three, suggesting they could be favourites to overcome New Zealand again.

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And Foster is under no illusions that his side would be facing a difficult challenge against Ireland, claiming it is ‘their moment’ to take the prize on French soil as he moved the pressure to their rivals.

When asked by a reporter if he thought this was Ireland’s best chance to win the trophy, Foster replied: “They’re got a group of players, this is probably their moment. If they’re ever going to win a World Cup, they will probably feel like it’s now.”

The 58-year-old, who will be replaced by Scott Robertson as All Blacks coach in 2024, even went as far as suggesting New Zealand are the underdogs heading into the clash. That might be a stretch considering his side enjoyed the highest points difference of all 16 teams in the tournament (206), with a 96-17 annihilation of Italy the standout result.

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But after giving high praise for Ireland’s recent form, Foster insisted he is eager to find out what is in store for his New Zealand side as Ireland chase a record-equalling 18-game winning streak.

“The fact it is Ireland, playing well, on top of their game, world number one, makes the challenge nice and simple,” he added. “They have got their game pretty well organised, well sorted. On a massive winning streak.

“Obviously, [they have] got a clear goal to create history for themselves in this tournament and probably are playing accordingly. So they’ll be confident and I kind of love that challenge.”

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