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'Ireland's experience was of not winning': All Blacks coach raises selection questions for World Cup quarter-final

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen speaks to his Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt ahead of the quarter-final.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen speaks to his Ireland counterpart Joe Schmidt ahead of the quarter-final.

By Cian Tracey

Steve Hansen was doing his best to be as diplomatic as possible before he delivered the killer line and summed up one of the many major differences between Ireland and the All Blacks.

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In New Zealand, it doesn't matter how many 'big' games you have played - if you are the form player, then you will be selected, regardless of the other more experienced options.

Hansen reshaped his All Blacks back-line late in this World Cup cycle and it paid off massively.

Richie Mo'unga's form for the Crusaders was so good that it forced, arguably the best out-half in the world, to shift to full-back.

Anton Lienert-Brown has been one of the best players in this tournament and he has kept Sonny Bill Williams out of the team.

Then there are the pair of electric wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge who backed up Hansen's faith in them as they delivered in spades in the crushing win.

It's hard to imagine a similar situation happening in Ireland, at least not under this coaching setup.

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The likes of Jordan Larmour and Andrew Conway could hardly have done much more to press their claims to be included.

"Experience is a funny thing, what is it they've experienced? That's the test," Hansen said.

"A lot of our guys have been involved in championship winning teams in Super Rugby, and that's why you select them.

"Their enthusiasm, excitement and ability to play the game in a formula is really important.

"It was interesting how many Ireland had, half of our team had played in a knockout match and won it.

"Ireland's experience was of not winning, and we had 11 guys with experience of winning. That's why you've got to be careful when you talk about experience.

"Just because you've played for a long time, you might have been something, but you might have been nothing along the way.

"This team is at its best when monkey on its back, (like a) previous loss to a team facing again: I don't know if you can call it a monkey, but we got reminded, and reminded and reminded and reminded that we'd lost to Ireland."

And there you have it – "Ireland's experience was of not winning."

Regardless of their two previous victories over the All Blacks, the Kiwis had warned us all week that beating them at a World Cup is very different. They weren't wrong.

Ireland's miserable World cup record goes on and Hansen was seemingly mindful of that coming into today's quarter-final.

"We remember our losses way more than we remember our wins," Hansen added.

"It's banked but it's not something you go and talk about. Just everyone knows it.

"The circumstances have ended up that we played someone we respect a lot tonight.

"They are a hard team to play against and we had to spend a lot of time getting ourselves right because we knew that if we didn't we would go home."

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