All Black Beauden Barrett happy to have Rory McIlroy's World Cup backing
Kiwi-Irish relations obviously haven't taken too much of a hit after the quarter-final demolition that ended the World Cup for Joe Schmidt's men on Saturday with Beauden Barrett and Rory McIlroy enjoying each other's company yesterday in Chiba.
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A maiden World Cup on Asian soil isn't the only significant sporting first occurring in Japan at present with the ZOZO Championship representing a debut for the PGA tour in the Land of the Rising Sun.
The convenient timing allowed for Rory McIlroy and Royal Portrush's Open champion Shane Lowry to attend the last eight tie in Tokyo Stadium, as well as for a few rugby figures to make their way to Accordia Golf Narashino CC throughout the week. Indeed Brian O'Driscoll even took part in the skins challenge on Monday with McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Jason Day and Hideki Matsuyama, contributing a lengthy birdie for the County Down native's cause.
One other such oval ball star was All Black Barrett who met with McIlroy on Wednesday after his practice round.
"There was a bit of chat about both games," said Barrett after the Holywood man took to Twitter to wish New Zealand luck against England in Saturday's semi-final (9am UK-time).
"He was obviously in the crowd (last weekend) and he's a proud Irishman.
"He was pretty complimentary with how we played, he wasn't too happy with the result.
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"It was good to have a chat, he's a great, down-to-earth guy. I love golf, he loves rugby and watches from the States.
"It was pretty cool to share some time with him yesterday."
McIlroy shot two over for his first round today, a score that has him in a tie for 47th, and Barrett will be hoping his own side fare better come the weekend as they chase an unprecedented third World Cup crown in a succession.
"We have to get our preparation right," Barrett said. "No two Test matches are the same so how we prepare - it's crucial that we get it right so we can turn up on Saturday at 5pm (Japanese-time) in the right space to do what's required to get the job done."
Barrett will again start at full-back for Steve Hansen's men in Yokohama, the one change to the starting side that beat Ireland seeing his brother Scott come in at blindside flanker for Sam Cane with Ardie Savea switching to the number seven jersey.
With Jordie Barrett wearing the number 23, it will be a family affair for the trio of brothers coming at the end of an emotional fortnight following the death of their grandfather Ted six days before the clash with Ireland.
"Obviously it was a tough time," reflected Beauden whose father was pictured smiling on as he scored a key try against Ireland. "(New Zealand's mental skills coach) Gilbert Enoka was great in that space and the team around supporting us and giving us the option to head home if that's what we needed to do.
"As I say, it's awesome to have Dad here.
"Last week was a tough week so it was awesome to share that moment with him.
"He's called Smiley for a reason, that grin of his comes out quite often and it's always good to see. He's just a proud Dad."
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