Joe Schmidt urges Ireland to ‘step up’ against New Zealand

Joe Schmidt has challenged Ireland to “step up” when they face the All Blacks in Dublin next weekend.

Schmidt’s side defeated Argentina 28-17 on Saturday but Schmidt admits he is “still bleeding” from Ireland’s last-gasp defeat to New Zealand in 2013.

Ireland will attempt to defeat the back-to-back world champions for just the second time in their history when they meet at the Aviva Stadium, with memories of their narrow 24-22 defeat to them five years ago fresh in his mind.

Schmidt’s side finally registered their first-ever win over New Zealand with the stunning 40-29 victory in Chicago in 2016 and Schmidt wants his side to go up another level as they try to record another momentous victory over the All Blacks.

“I’d be delighted if we can be as competitive as the last three times we’ve played them,” Schmidt said.

“The fact that the points differential between us is so narrow. The game in 2013: I’m still bleeding from that.

“It hurts when that happens. Chicago was a great band aid, but two weeks later we were very, very much in the game, and it was very tough, very, very tough.

“As physical as it was against Argentina, playing against New Zealand has been a step up. The challenge for our guys is to step up. I’m confident they can.

“But at the same time I’m well aware of the challenges the All Blacks present.”

Schmidt admits he now faces a tough decision in deciding who should replace Leinster flanker Sean O’Brien after he broke his arm in the win over the Pumas.

Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier and Tadhg Beirne are the leading contenders to step up at No 7.

“We have a few good sevens, with Josh having gone well in Chicago,” added Schmidt.

“It’s a tough decision for us during the week, which is exactly what we want. We’ve got a few options, and you have Tadhg Beirne, who is half a second row and half a back-row.

“So it’s an uncomfortable decision that’s going to have to be made, but it does add comfort knowing that Dan is there on the back of a couple of good hit-outs and could slot straight back in as well as he did.

“I’ll have a decent look again at this game [Argentina] and make some decisions off the back of that.”

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