3 things learned from Ireland v All Blacks

Rory Best (Gallo Images)
Rory Best (Gallo Images)

Dublin - "Epic stuff!" tweeted Irish rugby legend Brian O'Driscoll after Ireland's historic home win over world champions New Zealand on Saturday.

The 16-9 victory yielded a lot of talking points but here AFP Sports whittles it down to three things we learned from an epic Test match between the two top-ranked teams in the world - the champions of their respective hemispheres - less than a year out from the World Cup.

Best foot forward

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Ireland's captain grizzled hooker Rory Best answered the questions being posed by some over his age, 36, and an underwhelming performance in the lineout against Argentina the week before.

Against one of the best if not the best defensive lineouts in the world he was almost inch perfect aided by the giant lock Devin Toner. There were some nervy moments from Best in open play, one lost ball led to the All Blacks levelling at 3-3 but it was noticeable once Best and Toner left the pitch that the New Zealanders lineout jumpers began to make some hay out of Sean Cronin's throw ins.

Best a thoughtful and erudite man is never one to blow his own trumpet as when he responded to how it felt to go off to a standing ovation when he was replaced in the second-half.

"I thought it was for Tadgh (Furlong a prop) as he was outstanding," said Best.

"For me it was block out the pressure and go round doing what I do well for the team."

That he did and probably dispelled doubts about his ability to lead the team into the Six Nations and then the World Cup.

Farrell presents case for defence

Joe Schmidt has been mentioned as a future coach of New Zealand thanks to his stewardship of Ireland which has yielded two wins over his compatriots the All Blacks, three Six Nations titles including this year's Grand Slam and 17 victories in their last 18 Tests.

However, as All Blacks coach Steve Hansen remarked good coaches need good backroom teams and Schmidt owes a big favour to his England counterpart Eddie Jones, who dispensed with defence coach Andy Farrell's services when he took over after the 2015 World Cup debacle. The former rugby league great - who also played for England in rugby union - has with Saturday's win tasted success against the All Blacks four times (twice with Ireland, once with England and last year with the British & Irish Lions).

The 43-year-old modestly says he has no magic formula, but Schmidt is in no doubt of his qualities.

"It's not rocket science it's everyone performing their role," said Schmidt.

"There were times when we did get severed but the great thing about 'Faz' is he will look at those and say there are a couple of solutions there what do you think guys? He is doing a super job and have really enjoyed the 2 1/2 years."

These eye-catching victories will have done no harm to the lobby who want Farrell to be reunited with former England coach Stuart Lancaster, who has also rebuilt his reputation in Ireland at Leinster following the 2015 World Cup disaster, should Schmidt announce at the end of the month he will move on post the World Cup.

Stockdale adds rapier edge to Irish

Strong defence is the rock that this victory is based on but every side needs a sharp finisher and Ireland possess one in Jacob Stockdale. The 22-year-old Ulster wing also has deep reserves of chutzpah as he showed on Saturday.

Undeterred by having had one chip charged down by Kieran Read early in the second half - which fortunately the All Blacks captain then knocked on as a try beckoned - he went for it again later in the half and this time it paid off big time as he ran on to collect it and score his 12th try in just 14 Tests. "It does take a lot of confidence to try it again," said Best. "He is a fantastic player. He doesn't necessarily look very fast but you make your own luck with those chances."

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