By Sam Taylor
Ireland created history in Chicago on Saturday when they defeated the All Blacks 40-29 for the first time ever after 29 attempts, scoring five in the process.
In recent years southern hemisphere sides have had the dominance over their northern rivals, which was demonstrated during the 2015 Rugby World Cup. The tide seemed to have changed in the summer when England whitewashed Australia in their own backyard.
New Zealander Pat Lam, who now is the coach of Irish domestic side Connacht, claimed that one reason for the Ireland side’s success is that they are now copying the way New Zealand rugby is organised.
This is mainly through New Zealand-born Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, who believed that a step forward was to get involved with all of the Irish provinces. Previous coaches chose to focus on the more successful teams such as Munster and would rarely involve provinces like Connacht.
On the other side it was argued that the All Blacks’ preparation for the game was disrupted due to the game being staged in the US. With their main sponsor being AIG, they had obligations to do promotional activities to meet the commercial requirements. This claim was quashed by their coach Steve Hansen and full back Ben Smith, who both gave credit to the Irish side.
The teams will meet again in two weeks’ time in Dublin as part of their autumn international campaign where the All Blacks will certainly look to exact some kind of revenge on the Irish.
New Zealand had some selection problems for their game at Soldier Field as usual winger Jerome Kaino was moved into the second row. They were also missing influential lock forward Brodie Retallick, who is expected to be back for the rematch at the Aviva Stadium.
Schmidt admitted that the Irish targeted Kaino but the All Blacks will be a different animal with Retallick back at lock.
RTÉ analyst Brent Pope believes that the Irish can once again shock the world and beat the All Blacks for a second time. He says that the victory came as a shock as he thought it was too soon for the Irish players to step up from the domestic league to international rugby. They were also missing key players such as Sean O’Brien, who will still likely to be out for the second game.