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Black Magic – Ireland Braced For New Zealand Battle

haka

Here’s a prediction for a couple of headlines that may follow Ireland’s meeting with the All Blacks tomorrow. ‘Black Magic’, ‘Men In Black 28′, ‘Every Dagg Has His Day’, ‘Black Beauty’, or maybe just maybe, ‘Black Hawk Downed’. To be honest it’s not looking good for Ireland to beat the All Blacks tomorrow afternoon.

Last week’s demoralising defeat to Australia put the chances of finally turning over a New Zealand side even further from our grasp. This All Black team is a finely tuned machine and has the art of scoring and of stopping the opposition scoring down to a fine art. If Ireland do manage the unthinkable, I will be one of the 200,000 or so that will be at the game to see it. That figure is based on the attendance that said they were in Thomond Park in 1978 to witness Munster beating the All Blacks. We Irish love to be part of history and if a story didn’t grow legs, it would remain just a tadpole in the pond, just like if everyone that said they had a relation in the GPO in 1916 was correct, they would have been falling out the windows. The actual attendance at that game in 1978 was 12,000. The tourists played eighteen games on that tour, winning seventeen, beating the national sides of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, only faltering to Munster, the only Irish side that can claim ever beating the All Blacks.

Anyway, back to the game in question. Tomorrow’s game will be the twenty-eight meeting of these two sides. The All Blacks have yet to be defeated by the Irish national side, a draw in 1973 was the closet of the results. The centre partnership of Brian O’ Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy returns and claims a record breaking 52nd start together. O’ Driscoll will also equal Ronan O’ Gara’s record of 128 caps for his country. These stats are just that, stats. O’ Driscoll must be thinking, this is my last shot at history, it’s his 14th occasion to line out against the All Blacks and wouldn’t it be fitting for him to be on the team that finally manages to turn them over.

The All Blacks are looking to write a bit of history themselves, looking to become the first international side of the professional era to complete a perfect season. Those that are superstitious among you will crush your four leafed clovers in anger to find out that their last game was their thirteenth victory. Planting two magpies in their dressing room is also off the table, I asked, it’s not allowed. So how can Ireland turn up tomorrow with any chance of victory? They will have to be as aggressive or even more aggressive, if that’s possible, than their opponents at the breakdown. They can’t over commit at rucks and they will have to carry ball, hard carrying for eighty minutes. Have they realistically any hope of victory? Well there’s an old saying that involves Bob Hope, but in a two horse race, surely Ireland have more of a chance than that?

In a game in which Ireland really have nothing to lose, they should give it a shot. History awaits whichever side comes out on top and when history is at stake, pressure is inevitable. Ireland will have to start well, get the crowd into the game with them, make it an occasion early on. I didn’t like reading Cian Healy’s comments about ‘hating the Haka’, during the week. Personal opinions should be kept at just that, personal. The crowd at Twickenham drowning out the Haka with their ‘sweet chariots’, just looked and sounded all wrong. Respect the Haka, it’s a part of history, tradition at it’s finest and it surely will work to get the Irish as pumped up as the opposition. Don’t poke the tiger and then wonder why it attacked you.

For Ireland to compete at all, the big name players will have to have big games. The lesser known, even bigger. Tomorrow we take on the world’s best, guys that were born with big balls in their hands, rugby balls that is. Playing rugby in New Zealand comes straight in priority after breathing. Maybe we weren’t as bad as the Wallabies made us look, that can happen in rugby, when a game starts to slip away, it can gain momentum and the end result may look worse than it actually was. I can only hope that tomorrow’s game is a day to remember for Irish rugby, I hope to go see the play, ‘Stall Blacks’, in a couple of years and I hope to keep my match ticket to show all. I can say that I was there to witness the upset of all upsets.

Image courtesy of irishrugby.ie

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