The All Blacks will play Ireland in a blockbuster quarter-final showdown at the Rugby World Cup.
Japan’s 28-21 victory over Scotland meant the tournament hosts topped Pool A, and set them up with a quarter-final clash against the Springboks – a re-match of their famous meeting in 2015.
Their win dropped Ireland into second in the group, and leaves them locked in a quarter-final matchup with the All Blacks – a scenario few rugby fans would have predicted at the start of the tournament.
Ireland v New Zealand quarter-final
It is a struggle to see how this Ireland team can topple a giant – by Shane Horgan of The Times
“Yesterday’s performance was better than the win over Russia but good enough to beat New Zealand or South Africa? I can’t see it. Usually, when two of the game’s Tier One nations, you can find one area of advantage which the weaker team on paper can leverage to secure a victory. Sometimes it’s something as simple as passion. In the case of this Ireland team up against the world champions or the Springboks next weekend, I’m struggling to identify that chink of opportunity.
“That took a long time to yield dividends against Samoa so don’t expect it to do much better against the All Blacks.
The quarter-final, which will be held on Saturday at 11.15pm, will be just the second time the two sides have met at the World Cup, after a 1995 pool play clash which New Zealand won 43-19.
In the two other quarter-finals, England will take on Australia and Wales will play France.
The All Blacks have had an extra week off after their last pool game against Italy was called off because of Typhoon Hagibis, leaving some concerns over their preparation, especially now they will be playing a side who have given them troubles in the past few years.