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The NZ Herald Is Seriously Doubting Ireland's Ability To Repeat The Heights Of Chicago

The NZ Herald Is Seriously Doubting Ireland's Ability To Repeat The Heights Of Chicago
By Gavan Casey Updated

Ireland are in a curious position ahead of Saturday's feverishly anticipated contest with New Zealand.

On the one hand, history has already been made in Chicago, and the monkey has been removed from the nation's back; on the other, a savage defeat versus the same opposition in Dublin, it would seem, undoes some of their stellar work at Soldier Field.

It's unlikely, of course, that a Joe Schmidt side will by any means take their foot off the gas as the world's best rugby team rocks into Dublin wounded by such a tussle a fortnight ago, but the New Zealand media are more than aware of Ireland's problems beneath the weight of expectancy.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald, veteran Kiwi rugby writer Gregor Paul - author of a number of books on the All Blacks - asks if Ireland can cope with the expectation they've developed since that famous day in Chicago a fortnight ago, relating us, in our typical chip-on-shoulder state, to our cousins across the Irish Sea in terms of our tendency to flourish when written off:

Can they first of all cope with the level of expectation that they have generated? Celts love being tagged as the under dogs. It suits their mentality - to be doubted, to be underestimated and have everything to prove. That's partly why the Scots and Irish have overachieved in many fields - they have had a burning sense of grievance that the world holds little hope for them.

But Ireland can't play that card in Dublin. They can't say little old Ireland stands no chance against the world famous nasty men in black. They can no longer use - positively or negatively - their failure to ever beat the All Blacks as some kind of emotional fuel.

With victory comes a different burden of expectation and while this may be new territory for Ireland, it is the norm for the All Blacks. Their emotional state never changes.

The past would indicate that Ireland's own emotional state shouldn't be second-guessed until 5:30pm on Saturday, though the perhaps naive hopeful in most fans would suggest that Chicago was a watershed moment; such was the mettle shown, no longer will Ireland crumble when they're deemed competent at rugby's highest level.

Paul maintains in the NZ Herald, however, that this Ireland team is as likely to suffer a nosebleed at such unprecedented heights as they are to sustain the levels achieved Stateside:

Ireland are now gaining a little peak into that world. It can be a little scary. There is nowhere to hide and the question for them is do they have a desire and mentality to go through what it takes - physically and mentally - to consistently win big games, or are they happy enough to say they made history by beating the All Blacks once and that's enough for them?

One would suspect the latter is certainly not the case, whatever about the former. And while Paul seems raltively dismissive of Irish chances this Saturday, he's certainly not writing off Joe Schmidt's men - suggesting that, were New Zealand to lose once more, the Lions tour next summer could become altogether more interesting:

How Ireland and the All Blacks respond in Dublin to their respective fates in Chicago will be where the Lions can gain the most insight into what they face next year.

It's an interesting piece from a coveted rugby scribe, and offers some intriguing insight into the All Black mindset. You can check it out over on the New Zealand Herald's website.

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