Former Munster and Ireland out-half Ronan O'Gara joined Wednesday Night Rugby to discuss New Zealand.
Joe Molloy was excited about Ireland on Wednesday Night Rugby. Andy Dunne was too.
Most Irish rugby fans are still celebrating the 29-20 win over New Zealand on Saturday. Rightfully so. With a blend of youth and experience, Ireland overwhelmed the best team in the world. They dominated their visitors in a way they never had before. And it became the third time they beat the All Blacks since 2016.
But Ronan O'Gara urged Molloy (and the rest of us) to be careful.
The Director of Rugby at La Rochelle takes on a coach's mindset in response to the result. He disagrees with Brian O'Driscoll's suggestion that it was Ireland's most complete performance ever. And although he recognizes the energy and effectiveness of the players, O'Gara thinks it was just a great result and not something that will be meaningful moving forward.
"It's the most complete Irish performance I've ever seen."
Brian O'Driscoll is excited about Ireland's performance, even while understanding the stage of the World Cup cycle we're at.
— Off The Ball (@offtheball) November 15, 2021
Molloy suggested to O'Gara that this performance set the scene for a very promising future for this Ireland squad.
"I would disagree completely with you," O'Gara answered.
"Because I think this game on Sunday will be completely different. You're going to be up against a dogged, difficult Argentinian team. It's over, the game at the weekend. And that's what happens nowadays, Joe. It's over. The three-test series in the Summer will be completely different to playing in November."
It's the context of the performance that stands out for O'Gara. Ireland deservedly won, but New Zealand faced challenges that Ireland didn't. They are innate challenges because of the schedule.
"New Zealand come to Ireland at the end of a long season, particualrly long season this time. Ireland will go to New Zealand at the end of a long campaign in June, so the roles are reversed. New Zealand looked stale and jaded. Ireland were absolutely buzzing with energy. They celebrated every little victory throughout the 80 minutes. And they won the battle of the body language convincingly."
Energy is vital in every sport. Whether it's concentration in darts or physical output in athletics, you need energy to be effective. New Zealand being at the wrong end of their season is a big factor. It's not a coincidence that Ireland's only three victories over the All Blacks have come at this time of the year.
But there's one aspect that is different this time.
When Ireland beat New Zealand in 2018, it was considered a win over a relatively unimpressive New Zealand side. A relatively unimpressive New Zealand side is still exceptionally good. This New Zealand team is considered to be exceptional. They have star players all over the field. Even after Beauden Barrett was injured, they had no excuses from a talent point of view.
Their results coming into the game reflected that.
You essentially have to catch them on a bad day or play your best rugby to get a result against them. That's what Ireland did. But as O'Gara notes, they still scraped by in the end. As such, you can't assume Ireland will be able to replicate the result in the future. Especially not next summer when all the context leading into the games flips in New Zealand's favour.
Instead of looking to next summer or the World Cup, O'Gara's concerns are for Argentina this weekend.
"There was nine points [between them] with a penalty kicked in the last minute. Ireland played incredibly well and New Zealand didn't play very well so a fantastic performance but...that's over and you're onto your next game now.
"The Argentinian game is different because now the expectation level will be a little bit higher.
"Argentina will hit just as hard as the New Zealanders hit and it will be a scrappy, difficult game I imagine."
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