All Blacks heavy favorites to win series despite loss on weekend
Ireland have won three out of their last four matches against the All Blacks—a record no other team can currently boast.
Last weekend, they downed the three time World Cup winners 23-12 in their own backyard, leaving the home team flailing for answers and staring a series defeat in the eyes.
And yet, bookies are giving the New Zealanders an 80% chance of winning the third and final Test against Ireland, with odds of -400 for a Kiwi win, and only +300 for Ireland to come away victors.
With the series squared up at 1-1, and Ireland holding all the momentum, why are the odds so heavily in New Zealand’s favor?
Reputation as the comeback kings
New Zealand are the kings of bouncing back strong after a defeat.
You may read this and think: Hang on, what about last November, when the All Blacks lost to Ireland and France in consecutive weeks?
Point taken, however, one misnomer does not undermine the entirety of New Zealand rugby history.
The All Blacks are notoriously difficult to beat two weeks in a row, and more so at home. The last time a side beat them in consecutive weeks was 2009, when the All Blacks lost to South Africa away twice in a row. The clock has to be rewound another decade to come across the last time New Zealand lost back-to-back at home—1998, when South Africa and Australia both defeated the All Blacks in the space of a fortnight.
All this to say, the All Blacks have a reputation for problem-solving in the space of short time. Expect them to come out firing this Saturday, having addressed the areas where they fell short over the weekend.
Low-hanging fruit to be fixed
The past two weeks, Ireland have played well.
One week, they lost 42-19. The other, they won 23-12.
Inherently, this has to be encouraging for the All Blacks. They were the difference each weekend—in the first Test, they found another gear and executed incredibly for 20 minutes, blasting Ireland off the field with four quick tries. Last weekend, however, they capitulated, conceding two yellow cards and a red, as well as knocking the ball on and giving away penalties in clutch moments.
This week, they’ll be focused in on eliminating the handling errors and loose discipline. Do this, and all of a sudden, they’re back in the running against Ireland.
Everything to play for heading into the World Cup
Personally, Ian Foster and Sam Cane will be feeling the public pressure heading into next year’s World Cup.
On the weekend, Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony sledged Sam Cane by referring to him as a ‘s&%# Richie McCaw’. While this was all good banter on the field, every joke has an element of truth to it, and Sam Cane will be feeling the heat as captain of the least successful All Blacks team in recent memory. With a plethora of talented New Zealand flankers breathing down his neck, particularly Ardie Savea with his established leadership credentials, he’ll be eager to prove his critics wrong.
Ian Foster, on the other hand, will be keenly aware of those voices in New Zealand calling for Scott Robertson to be installed as the All Black’s captain before the World Cup. While this move is unlikely so close to the World Cup, perhaps the only thing that could catalyze it is a heavy series defeat to Ireland on the weekend.
Add up the All Black’s strong home record, their ability to improve quickly and overcome adversity, plus the nature of the performances in the last two games and the mounting public pressure, and the result is a side that is likely to put together a strong performance on the weekend.
Perhaps the bookies having them at -400 isn’t so crazy after all.