"You bunch of frickin' sods, mate!" - Kiwi reaction to Ireland claiming a tag All Blacks used to own
"We're looking on in a little bit of awe."
As the nation still basked in the afterglow of a resounding win over France, I was contacted by a radio producer in New Zealand to discuss the recent surge of success for Andy Farrell's Ireland.
Having lived in New Zealand in 2006, when a touring Ireland went 0-2, and toured as a reporter in 2012, Ireland went 0-3, there often felt as if this day would never come. The Kiwis were reaching out to ask how had Ireland become so damn good.
Chatting over WhatsApp, veteran broadcaster Martin Devlin conducted his interview for The Platform and marvelled over the world no.1 side. After I spoke of the growing sense of confidence, on these shores, about Ireland, Devlin declared:
"You should feel great because that's exactly what you look like. You look clinical, fit, fast, mean, intense. You look as though you have your foot on the opposition's throat and you're playing Test match rugby how it should be played.
"Even down in this part of the world, we're looking on in a little bit of awe and thinking, 'I don't think that team is going to be beaten this year'."
"It's not a title that sits easy, though, is it?"
The World Cup squad for 2023 has been expanded from 31 to 33 but, for Ireland, there will be an almighty scrap for spots.
When the latest Six Nations squad was named - injuries aside - the likes of Rob Baloucoune, Mike Haley, James Hume, Mike Lowry, Jean Kleyn, Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath and Max Deegan were among those surplus to requirements. As I mused on the upcoming knife-fight to make the World Cup squad, Martin Devlin declared:
"All I can say is you bunch of frickin' sods, mate! We're sitting down here and actually struggling to think who is going to be in our squad. Where trying to decide who our front row is, who the half-back is, who the first-five is. The midfield is muddled. The loose forward trio isn't settled.
"You'll be laughing at this, because in between World Cups, the All Blacks have always been the best team, but this time we aren't. That's you now - you're the favourites heading into the World Cup. It's not a title that sits easy, though, is it?"
Devlin is correct. For the longest time, before they busted an overlong hoodoo in 2011, New Zealand were considered the best in the business, between World Cups. Ireland, indisputably now after beating France, have claimed that tag.
"The All Blacks, at their best, always had this ruthlessness about them," Devlin stated. "They'd stomp you.
"There's often been a criticism levelled at Ireland, in the past, where they might just be happy to be there. But after beating us in New Zealand, do you feel that has been a big part in changing the Irish mentality?"
There was a humbling moment when I had to admit to the Kiwi broadcaster that we had produced not one but two recent documentaries about beating the All Blacks in Test rugby. Hell, there have been two plays about it, too.
Beating the ABs on their patch has instilled an even greater sense of belief in this Ireland side. However, as I explained to Devlin, that series win in New Zealand is just a step on the road, in the eyes of Farrell's men. The end goal is that World Cup final, in Paris.
You can catch more of Devlin Untamed here.
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