Opportunity knocks for Ireland in Chicago

10:39 PM GMT

CHICAGO — Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous six words “America is another name for opportunity” ring true for Ireland ahead of Saturday’s Test against New Zealand at Soldier Field.

For starting back-row CJ Stander, the two uncapped players on the bench and a team who haven’t beaten the All Blacks in 111 years, it feels on this week of all weeks in Chicago they are hoping to grasp the opportunity and create a slice of their own history in the Windy City.

It will be the first time Stander has faced the All Blacks as an Ireland international. With his Munster colleague Peter O’Mahony and Leinster back-row Sean O’Brien absent from the squad, Stander has been given a chance by Joe Schmidt to nail his colours to the No.6 mast and hopes they can capitalise on the feel-good atmosphere engulfing Chicago in the wake of the Cubs’ World Series win.

“There’s a lot of excitement in town and it’s good to feed off that excitement going into the weekend,” Stander said. “It’s always a great opportunity whenever you’re in a green jersey.”

That word ‘opportunity’ also covered the analysis they’ve done of the All Blacks and how Ireland hope to match that vicious last 20 minute burst from the Kiwis which became synonymous with their Rugby Championship campaign.

For uncapped duo Garry Ringrose and Joey Carbery, they too are looking to grasp the opportunity of being in the squad for Saturday’s game. Ringrose brings “excitement”, according to Stander, while Carbery offers “calmness”.

Ireland train at the University of Illinois (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt admitted they are being thrown into the deep end but wants them to put in a performance belying their international inexperience.

“It’s a little bit daunting for them but it’s a great opportunity for them to learn,” Schmidt said. “When they get out there I’ve no doubt the pace of the game will be pretty sharp.

“Those two youngsters, they can run all day and hopefully we’re not chasing shadows. Hopefully they can get a shot with the ball and demonstrate a little bit of the talent we’ve seen in them.”

And then the overarching opportunity is to put to bed, in a Cubs-like manner, over a century of failing to get over the finishing line against the world’s best side.

Their previous meeting was back in 2013 when New Zealand scored in the last play of the game to win 24-22 — breaking Irish hearts in the process — and Conor Murray was at scrum-half that day. On Saturday he gets another chance to put right those wrongs and banish the hoodoo.

“We’ve just got to believe in ourselves,” Murray said. “It does take an 80 minute performance and that’s part of the exciting challenge of this week.

“You’re up against the best team in the world who are playing very, very well.

“You want to pit yourself against the best, the last couple of times I’ve played them I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a player so hopefully we’re a bit more well-equipped, I know we are.

“We can go out there with confidence, knowing it will take a serious effort and we will have to be close to our best.”

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/17965839/opportunity-knocks-ireland-chicago
Opportunity knocks for Ireland in Chicago
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