Which Ireland will turn up in Tokyo?

Joe Schmidt's side were superb against Scotland but jaded in losing to Japan. Taking on the All Blacks on Saturday, they will need to be tireless and play at their powerful best.

TOKYO, 18 Oct - The stereotype most commonly associated with France is that we never knew which French side will turn up. At Rugby World Cup 2019, that same stereotype can be attributed to Ireland.

Are they the side who starved Scotland of possession and ran up the score against Samoa, or are they the team who lost against Japan and stuttered to a bonus point against Russia? If the answer is the latter, they surely stand little chance against a well rested New Zealand side in their quarter-final in Tokyo on Saturday.

Ireland play with power rather than creativity. They make only 1.25 passes per ruck, and, at RWC 2019, only Uruguay have passed less than them.

That means Ireland need to grind down the defence with hard carries to open up the space for the backs to work. It might seem that tackling is easy when carries are made close to the breakdown, but that is not the case.

The amount of options teams have when they are carrying tight to the breakdown puts stress on defenders. Iain Henderson shows this against Scotland at 16 seconds in the clip below.

The second-row should be running into the dead-end of Stuart McInally and Grant Gilchrist. He avoids this thanks to the inside options of Cian Healy and James Ryan. They fix Gilchrist, and Henderson charges through when McInally cannot get across to make the tackle.

Against Samoa, Ireland continued their power game. At 6.04 in the clip below, Ireland win a lineout just inside the Samoa 22.

Having won it at the front, they immediately drive to within eight metres of the line. From that point, it is simply one-out passing until Tadgh Furlong scores on the far side of the pitch.

Every carry gets over the gainline and the recycling of the ball is so quick it leaves the Samoan defence retreating to their own line and unable to come out and make a dominant hit on an Irish player.

When Furlong gets the ball, he still has much to do. He needs to beat the attempted tackles of Mike Alaalatoa and Alapati Leiua. Once he is through them he needs to drive over Filo Paulo and finally escape a last-ditch tackle from Ed Fidow.

It is very impressive by Furlong but it is set up by his team-mates sending the Samoa defenders back on each previous phase and creating the space for the tight-head to exploit.

The problem for Ireland is that Japan forced them to show their weakness in their 19-12 defeat: reacting to how quickly Japan were playing the ball at the breakdown.

New Zealand will not be slow when they are playing the ball, and may be even quicker than Japan. The speed that the Brave Blossoms played with was an issue because it forced Ireland to move their powerful players around.

Somebody like Furlong is much more effective when moving in a straight line. Once he is moved around the pitch his size and power become a weakness.

Ireland could overpower New Zealand when they have the ball.

At their best this tournament, they have driven opponents backwards and exhausted them.

It is much harder to tackle a powerful runner when you are tired. The problem for Ireland's ball-carriers is that they may exhaust themselves chasing All Blacks around the pitch.

RNS sl/sdg/pp/bo