Top-ranked Ireland unchanged to face New Zealand in Rugby World Cup quarterfinals
PARIS (AP) — Top-ranked Ireland has named an unchanged side to face New Zealand in their Rugby World Cup quarterfinal at Stade de France on Saturday.
Wingers Mack Hansen (calf) and James Lowe (eye) have shaken off minor injuries from the 36-14 win over Scotland last Saturday. Lowe scored a try early in a one-sided contest as Ireland topped Pool B with four out of four wins.
Reserve lock James Ryan has not recovered in time from a wrist injury and was replaced on the bench by Joe McCarthy on Wednesday.
“We expect him to be fit for next week if we are able to get that far,” coach Andy Farrell said of Ryan. “People get injured and there are always bangs at the start of the week. Some turn round a lot quicker than you would expect.”
Farrell hopes to take Ireland past the quarterfinal stage for the first time in tournament history, while the All Blacks are looking to win the competition for a record fourth time.
“It’s big-boy stuff isn’t it, we’re at the business end of the competition,” Farrell said. “When you get to this point in the competition, you hopefully draw on the good experiences you have had. We have got a very experienced group who have been through a lot.”
The All Blacks name their team on Thursday and it is also expected to include no surprises.
Ireland is also looking to win an 18th straight test to tie the tier one world record.
Ireland captain Jonathan Sexton will play his 15th test against New Zealand and 18th overall including his appearances for the British and Irish Lions. It means the standout flyhalf will surpass Welshman Alun Wyn Jones for most tests by any northern hemisphere player against New Zealand.
Last year, New Zealand lost a home series to Ireland for the first time. Flanker Josh van der Flier missed only one tackle against the All Blacks in 2022, completing 66 of 67 attempts. That helped him win world player of the year.
In France, Ireland has beaten then No. 2-ranked South Africa 13-8, No. 5 Scotland, Tonga 59-16 and Romania 82-8.
Ireland’s Green Army of singing fans has grown for every game and the 80,000-capacity stadium will be packed again with green jerseys.
Ireland: Hugo Keenan, Mack Hansen, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, James Lowe, Jonathan Sexton (captain), Jamison Gibson-Park; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Peter O’Mahony, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, Tadhg Furlong, Dan Sheehan, Andrew Porter. Reserves: Ronan Kelleher, Dave Kilcoyne, Finlay Bealham, Joe McCarthy, Jack Conan, Conor Murray, Jack Crowley, Jimmy O’Brien.