first_imgTopics Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp When I was playing for the All Blacks we would always talk about making sure that after the November series we did not have “a stone under the beach towel” during the off-season. Make no mistake, the New Zealand coaches and players have rocks under theirs now.Having said that, regardless of what Steve Hansen says, New Zealand are still the best team in the world and they are the favourites for next year’s World Cup. Yes, the gap has been closed a significant amount but the big question is whether the All Blacks should be panicking now, and I still think the answer is no. All credit to Ireland, they deserved their fantastic victory and they are being widely congratulated and rightly so, but I wonder if it does prove to be such a good thing for the world of rugby for the simple reason that the All Blacks are going to get better because of it. New Zealand rugby union team Read more Read more Steve Hansen decision could lead to Ireland’s Joe Schmidt joining All Blacks Ireland rugby union team Share on Messenger Autumn internationals Share on Twitter Since you’re here… Share on Facebook Support The Guardian Share via Email They will dissect this defeat because it is a big shock but I think we could well be looking back after the World Cup and seeing this as the tipping point. It is certainly wide open and three, maybe four, teams can lay claim to winning it. Already the mind games have started because traditionally Ireland do not like to be favourites, they prefer to be underdogs – let’s see how they cope with the expectation now.Andy Farrell delivered a defensive masterplan against the All Blacks and, if I were Hansen, the thing I would be most concerned about is that they did not seem to have a response, or a plan B. They just looked a little bit bereft of ideas and the bench did not seem to make much of a difference.New Zealand rugby is all about the first three phases: get over the gainline, build momentum and then they have their strike runners in position to cause havoc. How many times did we see Damian McKenzie cutting back and looking for those spaces he found against England that just were not there against Ireland?Farrell will have been working all week on staying high on the inside because, whenever McKenzie, Ben Smith and Beauden Barrett were looking for that slight disconnect in the defensive line, they found nothing and that is another big feather in the cap for Farrell. Twitter Ireland’s 113-year wait over as O’Mahony and Marmion make magic Rugby union comment The All Blacks now face Italy but, without doing them a disservice, have to wait a long time for another match of that kind of intensity; but I do not expect drastic changes between now and then. They seem to have 85-90% of their World Cup squad settled and have decided on the group of players they want.I do not think tactically there will be many changes either because you want to be really sure of yourselves and comfortable in what you are doing going into the games just before the World Cup.They will do what they do but will find a way to do it better. You can just see by the cohesion that every single one of Ireland’s XV have a total understanding of what they are doing. If you watch the ball and come hard off the line, as Ireland do, you have to stay square because it helps so much with your vision and your ability to stay square. Once you start closing your hips on the inside, that is when you get those disconnects; but that just did not happen and as a result New Zealand’s skills were put under pressure and they made mistakes. That is what linespeed does but I was surprised the All Blacks did not try to mix things up, kick a little more, put the ball over the top or in behind to change the picture and pin Ireland’s wingers back a bit.Defensively the All Blacks were better than they were towards the end of the Rugby Championship and they managed to combat a few of Ireland’s innovative set-plays, but obviously one of them led to the try and they are the hallmark of Joe Schmidt. Ireland managed to bring their intensity from the first minute to the last and they have a fantastic set-piece now – I was watching the match with Adam Jones and he was waxing lyrical about how strong they are in that department. Facebook Pinterest Share on Pinterest Ireland have a fantastic set-piece now. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/INPHO/REX/Shutterstock … we have a small favour to ask. More people, like you, are reading and supporting the Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism than ever before. 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