Paris: Past successes and failures will be irrelevant to the Ireland team when they take to the field to play three-times champions New Zealand in the World Cup quarter-finals on Saturday, coach Andy Farrell said on Wednesday after naming his team.
The Irish are ranked No 1 in the world and have won five of their last eight tests against New Zealand, but have never previously got past the quarter-finals at nine previous World Cups.
“It’s just about the here and now,” Farrell told reporters. “What’s happened in the past is irrelevant, we’re just trying to get better every week and so are they.” Captain Johnny Sexton was part of the squads that lost World Cup quarter-finals in 2011, 2015 and 2019 but said he thought it would not weigh upon the players.
“We worked on our mental game for the last four years, we’ve put ourselves in different situations to prepare for this,” he said.
“Each quarter-final that we haven’t got through our pool, they’ve all been different and it’s a different group again. It wasn’t the same group losing a quarter-final year after year.
“I don’t think we’re carrying much baggage, it’s a one-off game and we’ve got to prepare for it.” Farrell was able to name an unchanged starting team for the game with Mack Hansen and James Lowe both passed fit to play.
Hansen suffered a calf injury and Lowe a blow to the eye in Ireland’s last pool match against Scotland but both will take their places on the wings at Stade de France.
Replacement lock James Ryan misses out and was replaced by Joe McCarthy on the bench, where Jimmy O’Brien comes in as outside back cover in place of Stuart McCloskey.
'Big boy stuff'
Farrell said Ryan would probably be available for the semi-finals if Ireland managed to get past New Zealand.
“It’s the big boy stuff, isn’t it? It’s the business end of the competition,” he added.
“And when you get to those points then you draw, hopefully, on the experience you’ve had, and the positions you’ve put yourself in over the last three or four years.
“We’ve got a very experienced group that’s been through a lot, learning to deal with weeks like last week and this week is something they’ve got pretty good at.” Sexton led Ireland to their first series win in New Zealand last year and was part of the British & Irish Lions squad that drew the 2017 test series against the All Blacks.
The flyhalf said on Saturday he was expecting as tough a match as he had ever played over his 123-test career.
“I have some great battles with the All Blacks over the years with Ireland and the Lions and what you learn is that every game is as tough as the last,” he said.
“That’s what we’re preparing for, the toughest game we’ve ever faced, and that we’re going to be ready for it.”
Ireland team: 15-Hugo Keenan, 14-Mack Hansen, 13-Garry Ringrose, 12-Bundee Aki, 11-James Lowe, 10-Johnny Sexton, 9- Jamison Gibson-Park, 8-Caelan Doris, 7-Josh van der Flier, 6-Peter O’Mahony, 5-Iain Henderson, 4-Tadhg Beirne, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Dan Sheehan, 1-Andrew Porter Replacements: 16-Ronan Kelleher, 17-David Kilcoyne, 18- Finlay Bealham, 19-Joe McCarthy, 20-Jack Conan, 21-Conor Murray, 22-Jack Crowley, 23-Jimmy O’Brien.