Head coach Steve Hansen suggested New Zealand's Rugby World Cup pedigree was key as they thrashed Ireland 46-14 to reach the semi-finals in Japan.

The All Blacks came into Saturday's contest having lost two of their previous three fixtures against Ireland, including a 16-9 defeat in Dublin when the sides last met in November 2018.

However, the two-time defending world champions were emphatic winners on this occasion, running in seven tries to underline their status as tournament favourites ahead of a last-four meeting with England.

Ireland have never made it past the quarter-finals of a World Cup, which proved significant in Hansen's eyes.

"Experience is a funny thing, isn't it? What is it that you've experienced? That's the key," he said.

"Our young guys, a lot of them have been involved in championship-winning teams in Super Rugby, in big moments, and that's why you can select them with confidence. And they've played well in Test matches that we've selected them in.

"It was interesting, everyone was talking about how many [experienced players] Ireland had. Half of our 23 had played in a knockout tournament and won it, and that was the difference wasn't it?

"I'm not being disrespectful here in saying this, but Ireland's experience was not to win and we had 11 guys that actually had experience of winning.

"That's why you've got to be careful when you start talking about experience because sometimes just because you've played for a long time, you might have learned a lot of things that you don't want to learn or you may have learned nothing along the way.

"I was a bit like that when I played - I didn't learn much."

Asked if New Zealand had performed better with "a monkey on their back", Hansen replied: "I don't know if you can call it a monkey but we got reminded and reminded and reminded and reminded that we had lost to Ireland.

"And All Black teams don't need to be reminded that they've lost two games to Ireland, out of 38 [actually 32]. They know that and they don't forget it.

"We remember our losses way more than we remember the wins. So it's banked, it's not something that you go and talk about, just everyone knows it."

Steve Hansen congratulated Joe Schmidt and Rory Best for their achievements in the international game after New Zealand put an end to Ireland's Rugby World Cup hopes on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries in a 46-14 triumph as they cruised through to a semi-final meeting with England, keeping alive their bid to lift the trophy for a third successive tournament.

Defeat for Ireland not only ends their campaign in Japan but also head coach Schmidt's six-year reign, as well as the playing career of captain Best.

New Zealand boss Hansen praised his opposite number's achievements during his time in charge of Ireland; Schmidt won the Six Nations three times, including a Grand Slam campaign in 2018.

Before fielding a question in his post-match news conference, Hansen spoke glowingly about his compatriot, and hooker Best, who announced in April he would be retiring after the World Cup.

"Firstly, before we talk too much about the game, I'd really like to take the opportunity on behalf of myself and the All Blacks to congratulate two men on the opposition - Rory Best and Joe Schmidt," Hansen said.

"Both had magnificent careers in their respective roles for Ireland.

"They've made a difference in their time and, it doesn't matter what team you play for, if you can make a difference while you're there then you've done your job.

"So both of those guys, I understand, are finishing up and we'd like to acknowledge them publicly, what a wonderful job they've done."

Joe Schmidt admitted Ireland had "been a little bit flat" throughout 2019 after their Rugby World Cup hopes were emphatically ended by ruthless New Zealand on Saturday.

The All Blacks were at their clinical best in a one-sided quarter-final in Tokyo, scoring seven tries to ease to a 46-14 triumph and set up a last-four clash with England next weekend.

Ireland were architects of their own downfall, though, particularly during a first half when they made a number of errors while allowing their opponents to open up a 22-0 lead by the interval.

After celebrating Grand Slam glory in the Six Nations in 2018, as well as a first win over New Zealand on home soil, Ireland have failed to hit the same heights this year, with their World Cup exit a disappointing end to Schmidt's reign.

"It wasn't just the 22 points [in the first half], it was all the ball we gave them," Schmidt said in his post-match interview.

"I think we missed touch with penalties for us to get good field position three times, and that just meant we were chasing our tail. They had so much ball in our half, in our 22, that it was very, very tough going.

"We had a few chances in that first half, I think one of the tries – the third one the All Blacks scored -  we had a really good gap on the inside and just didn't quite play, didn't quite have the feel.

"We have been a little bit flat all season, which is disappointing. We were great last year and just maybe come off the top of that and haven't been where we've wanted to be all year."

As well as their head coach, Ireland also said their farewells to skipper Rory Best, who suffered a heavy defeat in his final international outing.

The hooker thanked the departing Schmidt for taking his game to a new level during an emotional interview before going on a lap of honour with his children after concluding media duties.

"The crowd have been fantastic, as has the support I have received from home, from the fans, whether we're at home or away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and, in particular, Joe," Best said.

"He brought Irish rugby and probably my game in particular to a new level. A lot of credit must go to him."

An emotional Rory Best doffed his cap to New Zealand after the two-time defending champions ended the Ireland captain's career with a crushing 46-14 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat.

The All Blacks were in a class of their own at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday, Aaron Smith claiming a quickfire first-half double and Beauden Barrett also crossing to put the holders 22-0 up at the break.

Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, George Bridge and Jordie Barrett touched down in the second half, with Ireland having to wait until 11 minutes from time for Robbie Henshaw to go under the posts and get them on the board before they were awarded a late penalty try.

New Zealand will face England in a blockbuster semi-final next week and Best was full of praise for Steve Hansen's men after they sent him into retirement on the back of a hammering.

The hooker said: "The All Blacks were fantastic tonight. We felt we prepared well, we felt we had a game plan, we felt we have enough in our armoury to beat them, but they came out of the blocks hard at us, put us on the back foot and like good sides do, they never let us off that again.

"I think they were just really, really clinical. They didn't let us get on the front foot and this is a front-foot, momentum game, especially in knockout rugby.

"The boys who are here will have to look back at this and see how they can get better, but right now you have to give enormous credit to the All Blacks - they were fantastic tonight."

Best was given a huge ovation when he was interviewed on the pitch after the match and the 37-year-old expressed his gratitude to head coach Joe Schmidt at the end of his reign.

"I've loved every minute of it," said Best. "The support that I've got from fans when we are at home and away, my team-mates, the coaching staff and public and in particular Joe, who is moving on.

"I think he brought Irish rugby and probably my game to a different level and a lot of credit and a lot of thanks must go to him."

In an interview with Omnisport last April, the great Brian O'Driscoll acknowledged Ireland would prefer the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held 12 months earlier than scheduled.

How Joe Schmidt's men must have wished that had been the case on Saturday, as they suffered a humbling 46-14 defeat to a rampant New Zealand and exited the tournament at the quarter-final stage yet again.

In 2018, Ireland were almost unstoppable, racking up 11 wins from 12 Tests - including a Six Nations Grand Slam and an historic maiden home win over the All Blacks in November.

Their only defeat, at the hands of Australia in June, was swiftly avenged, as they followed up that loss in Brisbane with victories in Melbourne and Sydney to earn a first series victory in Australia since 1979.

Before that tour and the triumph over the All Blacks, though, O'Driscoll delivered an assessment that can now be viewed as startlingly prophetic. 

In the wake of Ireland's Grand Slam success, the former British and Irish Lions centre said: "Would we prefer to have the World Cup this September? Yes, we would, because of where we feel we're at versus the rest of the world.

"But 18 months is a long time in international rugby. It will give other teams an opportunity to build on the work they've done.

"South Africa won't be the side that they currently are in 18 months' time; they always get it together for a World Cup. France seem to be a side that will definitely improve. Wales have a lot of injuries [and will be stronger in future]. England are not going to be as disappointing as they were in this year's Six Nations.

"So there's lots of teams that have time to be able to right their wrongs in terms of recent form and make sure that they peak come Japan 2019."

Unfortunately for O'Driscoll and his countrymen, while several nations have improved significantly, Ireland's recent peak has undeniably passed.

A week on from last November's triumph over New Zealand, Ireland swept the major honours at the 2018 World Rugby awards, scooping the team of the year prize as Schmidt and Johnny Sexton were named coach of the year and player of the year respectively.

The following day, Schmidt announced his intention to stand down and end his coaching career after the World Cup. Ireland's fortunes have declined sharply ever since.

Defeats to England and Wales in this year's Six Nations saw the team finish third 12 months on from their Grand Slam glory.

If that represented a concerning dip, the alarm bells were certainly ringing by the time Schmidt's side were trounced 57-15 by England at Twickenham in August.

Skipper Rory Best said he and his team-mates were "nowhere near where we need to be", adding: "The only upside is that it is the middle of August not the middle of September."

Ireland won their remaining warm-up games against Wales and further much-needed optimism was provided when they recorded a comprehensive 27-3 win over Scotland in their opening Pool A fixture.

Yet it proved a false dawn.

A shock loss to hosts Japan six days on laid bare Ireland's issues once more and ultimately pressed Best and Co into the least enviable quarter-final slot, as opponents of the All Blacks.

Had the game taken place in 2018, Ireland would surely have fancied their chances.

Instead, this contest felt like a foregone conclusion from the outset and so it proved as a glittering era under Schmidt came to a painful end.

New Zealand remain right on course to retain the Rugby World Cup after they eased through to the semi-finals with a 46-14 thrashing of Ireland at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks ran in seven tries as they emphatically crushed their opponents, setting up a showdown with England - 40-16 winners over Australia in the first knockout tie of the 2019 tournament - in Yokohama next weekend.

As for Ireland, the heavy defeat means they are still yet to get beyond the last eight at a World Cup, a record seventh quarter-final exit bringing a disappointing end to Joe Schmidt's otherwise successful reign.

They had won two of the past three meetings between the teams but hopes of further success disappeared during an error-strewn opening half, New Zealand scoring 22 points without reply to make the result a formality with 40 minutes still left to play.

The All Blacks had opened their campaign in Japan with a hard-fought win over South Africa, but that heavyweight clash was a month ago, leading to suggestions rustiness could be an issue after cruising through the rest of their Pool B fixtures.

However, it soon became clear there was no need for head coach Steve Hansen to be concerned about his team being undercooked.

Aaron Smith darted over twice from close range in the first quarter, and even when Ireland did eventually threaten with ball in hand on the half-hour, miscommunication between Johnny Sexton and Keith Earls coughed up possession and New Zealand ruthlessly made them pay, Richie Mo'unga initially hacking the loose ball on before leaving it for Beauden Barrett to finish.

A sorry first half for Schmidt's team was summed up by a penalty decision being reversed, denying them a chance to get on the scoreboard before the break, while any remote idea of a comeback disappeared when Kieran Read's pass off the floor set up hooker Codie Taylor eight minutes into the second period.

Matt Todd and the excellent Bridge also crossed as New Zealand refused to show any mercy, though the former finished the game in the sin bin after Ireland were awarded a penalty try.

Robbie Henshaw had already crossed by then to make sure the Irish avoided the indignity of being shut out, yet the All Blacks deservedly had the last word when Beauden Barrett's pass put brother Jordie in at the right corner.

Vulnerable All Blacks? Forget about it!

Typhoon Hagibis forced the postponement of New Zealand's final group game against Italy, yet they did not take long to get back into the swing of things. An early show of physicality set the tone for a dominant display as they made a statement to those who have designs on ending their long reign as world champions.

Say it ain’t so, Joe…

This was not how Schmidt hoped his tenure would end. He had twice plotted defeats of his homeland previously, but there was to be no hat-trick. Still, he departs after over six years in charge having won three Six Nations titles, including completing the Grand Slam in 2018. Sadly for Ireland, they appear to have peaked a year too early in terms of the World Cup.

Sevu Reece and George Bridge add a "fearless" edge to New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Ireland, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

The duo's inclusion sees Rieko Ioane and the experienced Ben Smith miss out on Hansen's 23-man squad, but Foster believes the World Cup debutants can be key.

"There is a little bit of fearlessness about them," Foster told a news conference.

"Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

"But they are really sensible young men. They train hard, they play hard. When you haven't got Ben and Rieko in the group, that is a tough decision, because they are two pretty special people in our group.

"We just felt that George and Sevu have done enough. There is a bit of spark there and we will run with that."

Ireland lost to hosts Japan in their second outing but comfortable victories over Scotland, Russia and Samoa saw them progress, as they recovered some form following doubts coming into the tournament.

Foster sees confidence and momentum as the deciding factors in this last-eight tie.

"I am pretty sure they will have some tricks up their sleeve, and we like to think we have got a couple up our sleeve," he added.

"That is the nature of preparing for a big Test match. But to be honest, games like this are often not about a special trick or surprise. It is about your confidence, how you deal with the pressure and how you keep executing your own game.

"It is one thing to know each other's game, it's another to execute it properly and to stop the other person doing it. That is what play-offs are about, it is about having that composure to trust yourself and really back yourself to keep doing what you do well."

Former New Zealand international Jeetan Patel has been appointed England spin bowling consultant for the five-match Twenty20 series against the Black Caps.

The Warwickshire captain has been given special dispensation from Cricket Wellington to miss the first three matches of the Plunket Shield season and will join up with the England squad in Christchurch next week.

Patel played 43 ODIs, 24 Tests and 11 T20 Internationals over an 11-year period and has continued to thrive in first-class cricket in the twilight of his career.

New Zealand Cricket and Cricket Wellington fully support Patel with his assignment in the England set-up under new head coach Chris Silverwood as he makes plans to become a coach when he calls time on his playing days.

The first T20 begins at Hagley Oval on November 1.

 

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semi-final and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champions New Zealand in two of their previous three meetings, but Ireland have a rotten record in World Cup quarter-finals.

Hosts Japan face South Africa – the team they stunned in the pool stage four years ago – in their first World Cup quarter-final, while Wales meet France and England take on an Australia side they have an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarter-final clashes.

 

England v Australia

6 - England have dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage – the most of any team – while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand v Ireland

7 - Ireland are in their seventh World Cup quarter-final and have lost all of their previous six matches at this stage – the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter – a run that dates back to a quarter-final defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand have scored a try in each of their last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

Wales v France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Warren Gatland's team have won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of their pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. They have never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Tests in which they have been leading at half-time – the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when they were 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan v South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was their first over a Tier One nation. Since then they have won two of their three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.

Joe Schmidt acknowledges Ireland's victory over New Zealand a year ago means they will not be able to "sneak up on" the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

A shock defeat to Japan consigned Ireland to second in Pool A and a meeting with New Zealand in the quarter-finals this weekend.

Schmidt's side have recovered well from the reverse at the hands of the host nation, though, and will be confident heading into the clash in Tokyo.

Ireland beat the All Blacks on home soil for the first time last November and Schmidt claims his team "know how to get up for big games".

However, he acknowledged the threat Ireland showed in that breakthrough victory means New Zealand will be well prepared.

"We're certainly not going to sneak up on them anymore. We're not going to surprise them," he told a media conference.

"I think they're well aware of how we play and what they're going to do to combat that and what they're going to put into their own armoury to make sure we're chasing them about."

But Schmidt sees how that previous triumph can play into Ireland's hands, boosting players he believes must back themselves if they are to stand any chance.

"The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is they can play very well and still not get the result," he said. "That's the quality the All Blacks have, the athletes they possess.

"But [Ireland] have connected up very well and they have had some pretty successful experiences together.

"A number of the players within the side have contributed to a fair bit of history for us - the first time we've won at home against the All Blacks and a few other milestones along the way.

"The accumulation of those experiences together hopefully builds a bit of confidence, because you need to have some belief.

"You can't go out against an All Blacks side and accept that you're second fiddle. You've got to go out and put your best foot forward. We hope that this 23 will be committed to doing that."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Zealand - Kieran Read

Heading into the knockout stages, some of the biggest names in world rugby will be turning out for their countries for the final time. All Blacks skipper Read will be among them if Ireland triumph.

"I think you have got to really embrace what the emotions are going to bring," he said ahead of this mammoth clash.

Ireland - Rory Best

Best featured in impressive wins against South Africa and New Zealand in recent years and, having been criticised by some coming into the tournament, it is time to step up again. The captain, who debuted against the All Blacks in 2005, should be in inspired form, knowing defeat would make this his last international.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- New Zealand have won 28 of their 31 Test meetings with Ireland (D1, L2), but their two defeats have come in their past three clashes (2016, 2018).
- The sides have met just once before at the World Cup, with the All Blacks winning 43-19 in their pool stage clash in 1995.
- Ireland have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the seventh time, yet they have never progressed to the last four at the tournament. Their six defeats at this stage are the joint-most along with Scotland.
- New Zealand have won their past 17 World Cup games, a record for any nation in the tournament's history. However, their most recent defeat came in a quarter-final - a dramatic 20-18 loss to France in 2007.
- Conor Murray has scored four tries in nine Tests against New Zealand (three for Ireland, one for the British and Irish Lions). No player outside Australia or South Africa has crossed against the All Blacks as often.

Rob Kearney, Peter O'Mahony and Garry Ringrose have all been brought into the Ireland team to face New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made three changes from the side that defeated Samoa 47-5, with Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Beirne and Bundee Aki all dropping out.

Larmour scored a try and impressed against Samoa but the more experienced Kearney has got the nod at full-back and will win his 95th cap in Tokyo.

Ringrose returns to partner Robbie Henshaw at centre after Aki's tournament was ended by a three-game ban handed down for his dismissal against Samoa.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray will surpass Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer as Ireland's most capped half-back pairing when they appear together for a 56th time at international level.

O'Mahony comes back in at flanker as Ireland attempt to hand New Zealand their first World Cup defeat since a quarter-final loss to France 12 years ago.

Ireland have won two of their past three meetings with the All Blacks, including their most recent encounter in Dublin 11 months ago.

 

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour

The New Zealand All Blacks are fully fit and have named their strongest possible squad for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

The defending champions rotated their squad for what proved to be their final two pool games against Canada and Namibia, with the final game against Italy abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen makes one change to the pack which started the first pool game against South Africa with Brodie Retallick back from a dislocated shoulder to replace Scott Barrett.

There's also a change in the back line from that 23-13 win over the Springboks in Yokohama as Jack Goodhue earns a recall, with Anton Lienert-Brown switching to inside centre and Ryan Crotty missing out altogether.

Skipper Kieran Read returns from a rest against Namibia to earn his 125th cap.

Hansen said he had a full squad of players to choose from for Saturday, as excitement builds for the clash in Tokyo.

"This is a great reflection on the players themselves and the staff who have done a great job getting them through the pool phase of the tournament," he said.

"We are very happy with where the team is at, at this stage, and it feels like the team is where it needs to be for [a] physical and fiercely fought encounter.

"There's a lot of energy and excitement in the team which is normal for this stage of the tournament where the winner takes all. It will add extra pressure to both sides."

The winner of the England-Australia quarter-final earlier in the day awaits the winner of New Zealand and Ireland.

All Blacks: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.
 

Ian Foster played down the relevance of New Zealand's defeat to Ireland last year ahead of their Rugby World Cup quarter-final, vowing: "We don’t get too stuck in the past."

Ireland claimed their first victory over the All Blacks in Chicago three years ago and then defeated the world champions 16-9 in Dublin last November.

The two sides will do battle again in a mouth-watering last-eight contest at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

Attack coach Foster says New Zealand are looking forward to the challenge rather than thinking about where they fell short against Joe Schmidt's side 11 months ago.

Asked about that contest at the Aviva Stadium, Foster quipped: "I can’t remember it."

He added: "No, that's not true. We just got beat by a good Irish team. That was a different time, different place, is it relevant? Perhaps, they would have learned some stuff, we learned some stuff.

"We actually don't get too stuck in the past, it's more about the challenge that’s in front of us.

"This is a World Cup knockout game and it’s actually about what happens this week, not what happened in the last two years. We know everyone comes for us every time we play."

Prop Joe Moody says New Zealand owe Ireland but need no extra motivation to reach the semi-finals as they eye an unprecedented third successive World Cup triumph.

"I suppose a little bit in the back of your mind, it just reminds you, I guess, that we sort of owe them one." Moody said.

"At the same time, it's not something we dwell on, or focus on. It's just that they have got a couple on us in recent history. 

"It wouldn't matter who you are playing this week, it is just that we have to win."

Steve Hansen is "quite happy" to see Japan on the opposite side of the draw to New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup - but knows Ireland will be a tough test in the quarter-finals.

Tournament hosts Japan qualified for the knockout stages for the first time in their history, Sunday's hard-fought victory over Scotland also seeing them finish top of Pool A.

The 28-21 result means the Brave Blossoms next face South Africa, who were second in Pool B, rather than New Zealand, with the two-time reigning champions instead going up against Ireland. 

Pleased to avoid one of the in-form teams still left standing, Hansen praised the way Japan's players had lifted their nation after the devastation caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

"Without a doubt they'd have to be considered like they are playing and performing like a Tier One nation," the All Blacks head coach told the media. 

"They're now in the top eight in the world on performance and they're playing quality rugby, so I think Japan should be very, very proud of them.

"What a marvellous thing for the tournament, you know they've given the game a boost I think, they've given Japan Rugby a boost, and they've given the Japan people a boost after what was a pretty horrific weekend.

"People have said, 'Who do you want to play?' Well, they're the on-form team, so I'm quite happy they're on the other side of the draw."

New Zealand hardly have it easy in the last eight, though, as they go up against opponents who topped the world rankings prior to the World Cup.

Ireland have also won two of the three previous meetings between the teams, including a 16-9 triumph in Dublin when they met in November 2018.

"Obviously we're facing Ireland so we know that, that's the best part, we know who we're playing," Hansen said. "They're a quality side, they've been number one this year.

"I think their last three results are loss-win-loss [for New Zealand] - there won't be any complacency in their camp, so it's pretty exciting. We're right where we want to be.

"We enjoy playing them and that doesn't change because they've beaten us a couple of times.

"A lot of people are getting caught up in the past, it's about what's going to happen on Saturday that is going to matter, anything that's happened prior to that is irrelevant."

Johnny Sexton is baffled by "strange" criticism of Ireland and assures they have belief that New Zealand can be dethroned at Tokyo Stadium on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt's side put a shock defeat to Japan behind them to finish second behind the hosts in Pool A with three wins out of four.

Ireland will face defending champions the All Blacks in the quarter-finals this weekend and World Rugby Player of the Year Sexton is surprised with the reaction to their performances in the tournament.

"There's been some negativity around us and we'd feel that's been pretty strange," the fly-half said.

"It's just something that we get a sense of. You get texts saying, 'Keep the head up, we're still behind you.' And you get a feeling that there are some things out there that aren't great. 

"We know things weren't great but it's funny some people trying to compare things to 2007 when they just scraped past Namibia - and we have just beaten Russia 35-0. How there can be comparisons there I'm not quite sure - and in totally different conditions."

Sexton says two victories in the past three encounters with the defending champions have given Ireland confidence they can beat Steve Hansen's men when it matters most.

"We know they're the best team in the world. We can take a little bit of confidence from the fact that we have got that monkey off our back and we've done it a couple of times, which gives us that belief," he added.

"It will be very special if we can get a win because often in a November series they're tired, they've got holidays coming up and maybe they've had a little bit of an excuse.

"But this week they'll be throwing their best at it out there. We've got to concentrate on getting the best version of the Irish team out there and we'll see if that's good enough."

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