Sevu Reece and George Bridge add a "fearless" edge to New Zealand's squad for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final tie with Ireland, according to assistant coach Ian Foster.

Reece and Bridge have both impressed so far for the two-time defending champions in Japan and have made the cut for Steve Hansen's XV against Ireland on Saturday as two of the world's best teams face off.

The duo's inclusion sees Rieko Ioane and the experienced Ben Smith miss out on Hansen's 23-man squad, but Foster believes the World Cup debutants can be key.

"There is a little bit of fearlessness about them," Foster told a news conference.

"Some of it is probably because they haven't been at a World Cup before, they probably don't what is at stake, in some sense.

"But they are really sensible young men. They train hard, they play hard. When you haven't got Ben and Rieko in the group, that is a tough decision, because they are two pretty special people in our group.

"We just felt that George and Sevu have done enough. There is a bit of spark there and we will run with that."

Ireland lost to hosts Japan in their second outing but comfortable victories over Scotland, Russia and Samoa saw them progress, as they recovered some form following doubts coming into the tournament.

Foster sees confidence and momentum as the deciding factors in this last-eight tie.

"I am pretty sure they will have some tricks up their sleeve, and we like to think we have got a couple up our sleeve," he added.

"That is the nature of preparing for a big Test match. But to be honest, games like this are often not about a special trick or surprise. It is about your confidence, how you deal with the pressure and how you keep executing your own game.

"It is one thing to know each other's game, it's another to execute it properly and to stop the other person doing it. That is what play-offs are about, it is about having that composure to trust yourself and really back yourself to keep doing what you do well."

The Rugby World Cup enters the knockout phase this weekend, with Ireland looking to finally reach a semi-final and Japan bidding to cause another upset.

Joe Schmidt's team may have beaten two-time reigning champions New Zealand in two of their previous three meetings, but Ireland have a rotten record in World Cup quarter-finals.

Hosts Japan face South Africa – the team they stunned in the pool stage four years ago – in their first World Cup quarter-final, while Wales meet France and England take on an Australia side they have an excellent recent record against.

Here, we take a look at the Opta data for the four quarter-final clashes.

 

England v Australia

6 - England have dominated the Wallabies of late, winning each of their previous half a dozen meetings since Australian Eddie Jones was hired as head coach in 2015.

7 - No player won more turnovers than Maro Itoje's seven in the pool stage and the England forward only featured in two of his team's three matches.

29 - Jones' side averaged 29 kicks in play per game during the pool stage – the most of any team – while Australia, with 13, averaged the fewest.

New Zealand v Ireland

7 - Ireland are in their seventh World Cup quarter-final and have lost all of their previous six matches at this stage – the joint most last-eight losses, along with Scotland.

17 - The All Blacks have won a record 17 consecutive World Cup games coming into this encounter – a run that dates back to a quarter-final defeat to France in 2007.

29 - New Zealand have scored a try in each of their last 29 World Cup matches, last failing to do so in 2003.

Wales v France

8 - In the eight meetings between these two nations since Les Bleus beat Wales in the 2011 World Cup semi-finals, Warren Gatland's team have won seven times. Only the All Blacks have beaten France more often in that span (10 times).

4 - Wales won all four of their pool-stage matches for the first time since 1987. They have never won five World Cup games in a row.

6 - Since the start of 2018, France have lost six Tests in which they have been leading at half-time – the most such defeats of any side in that time. One of those came against Wales when they were 16 points ahead at the interval.

Japan v South Africa

3 - Japan's 34-32 victory over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup was their first over a Tier One nation. Since then they have won two of their three games against such opponents, beating Ireland and Scotland in this tournament.

5 - Kotaro Matsushima is one of the leading try-scorers at this World Cup, along with Wales wing Josh Adams, having crossed five times.

47 - The Springboks won 47 out of 47 lineouts on their own throw in the pool stage, the only side in the tournament to maintain a 100 per cent success rate.

Joe Schmidt acknowledges Ireland's victory over New Zealand a year ago means they will not be able to "sneak up on" the All Blacks at the Rugby World Cup on Saturday.

A shock defeat to Japan consigned Ireland to second in Pool A and a meeting with New Zealand in the quarter-finals this weekend.

Schmidt's side have recovered well from the reverse at the hands of the host nation, though, and will be confident heading into the clash in Tokyo.

Ireland beat the All Blacks on home soil for the first time last November and Schmidt claims his team "know how to get up for big games".

However, he acknowledged the threat Ireland showed in that breakthrough victory means New Zealand will be well prepared.

"We're certainly not going to sneak up on them anymore. We're not going to surprise them," he told a media conference.

"I think they're well aware of how we play and what they're going to do to combat that and what they're going to put into their own armoury to make sure we're chasing them about."

But Schmidt sees how that previous triumph can play into Ireland's hands, boosting players he believes must back themselves if they are to stand any chance.

"The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is they can play very well and still not get the result," he said. "That's the quality the All Blacks have, the athletes they possess.

"But [Ireland] have connected up very well and they have had some pretty successful experiences together.

"A number of the players within the side have contributed to a fair bit of history for us - the first time we've won at home against the All Blacks and a few other milestones along the way.

"The accumulation of those experiences together hopefully builds a bit of confidence, because you need to have some belief.

"You can't go out against an All Blacks side and accept that you're second fiddle. You've got to go out and put your best foot forward. We hope that this 23 will be committed to doing that."


PLAYERS TO WATCH

New Zealand - Kieran Read

Heading into the knockout stages, some of the biggest names in world rugby will be turning out for their countries for the final time. All Blacks skipper Read will be among them if Ireland triumph.

"I think you have got to really embrace what the emotions are going to bring," he said ahead of this mammoth clash.

Ireland - Rory Best

Best featured in impressive wins against South Africa and New Zealand in recent years and, having been criticised by some coming into the tournament, it is time to step up again. The captain, who debuted against the All Blacks in 2005, should be in inspired form, knowing defeat would make this his last international.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- New Zealand have won 28 of their 31 Test meetings with Ireland (D1, L2), but their two defeats have come in their past three clashes (2016, 2018).
- The sides have met just once before at the World Cup, with the All Blacks winning 43-19 in their pool stage clash in 1995.
- Ireland have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the seventh time, yet they have never progressed to the last four at the tournament. Their six defeats at this stage are the joint-most along with Scotland.
- New Zealand have won their past 17 World Cup games, a record for any nation in the tournament's history. However, their most recent defeat came in a quarter-final - a dramatic 20-18 loss to France in 2007.
- Conor Murray has scored four tries in nine Tests against New Zealand (three for Ireland, one for the British and Irish Lions). No player outside Australia or South Africa has crossed against the All Blacks as often.

Rob Kearney, Peter O'Mahony and Garry Ringrose have all been brought into the Ireland team to face New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has made three changes from the side that defeated Samoa 47-5, with Jordan Larmour, Tadhg Beirne and Bundee Aki all dropping out.

Larmour scored a try and impressed against Samoa but the more experienced Kearney has got the nod at full-back and will win his 95th cap in Tokyo.

Ringrose returns to partner Robbie Henshaw at centre after Aki's tournament was ended by a three-game ban handed down for his dismissal against Samoa.

Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray will surpass Ronan O'Gara and Peter Stringer as Ireland's most capped half-back pairing when they appear together for a 56th time at international level.

O'Mahony comes back in at flanker as Ireland attempt to hand New Zealand their first World Cup defeat since a quarter-final loss to France 12 years ago.

Ireland have won two of their past three meetings with the All Blacks, including their most recent encounter in Dublin 11 months ago.

 

Ireland: Rob Kearney; Keith Earls, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Jacob Stockdale, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong; Iain Henderson, James Ryan, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Andrew Porter, Tadhg Beirne, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Joey Carbery, Jordan Larmour

The New Zealand All Blacks are fully fit and have named their strongest possible squad for Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

The defending champions rotated their squad for what proved to be their final two pool games against Canada and Namibia, with the final game against Italy abandoned due to Typhoon Hagibis.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen makes one change to the pack which started the first pool game against South Africa with Brodie Retallick back from a dislocated shoulder to replace Scott Barrett.

There's also a change in the back line from that 23-13 win over the Springboks in Yokohama as Jack Goodhue earns a recall, with Anton Lienert-Brown switching to inside centre and Ryan Crotty missing out altogether.

Skipper Kieran Read returns from a rest against Namibia to earn his 125th cap.

Hansen said he had a full squad of players to choose from for Saturday, as excitement builds for the clash in Tokyo.

"This is a great reflection on the players themselves and the staff who have done a great job getting them through the pool phase of the tournament," he said.

"We are very happy with where the team is at, at this stage, and it feels like the team is where it needs to be for [a] physical and fiercely fought encounter.

"There's a lot of energy and excitement in the team which is normal for this stage of the tournament where the winner takes all. It will add extra pressure to both sides."

The winner of the England-Australia quarter-final earlier in the day awaits the winner of New Zealand and Ireland.

All Blacks: Beauden Barrett, Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Nepo Laulala, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.

Replacements: Dane Coles, Ofa Tuungafasi, Angus Ta'avao, Scott Barrett, Matt Todd, TJ Perenara, Sonny Bill Williams, Jordie Barrett.
 

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