Former coach Eddie O’Sullivan believes Ireland are a better team than the All Blacks but acknowledges the 2023 Rugby World Cup is still some time away.
Andy Farrell’s Irish side created further history last weekend, becoming the first northern hemisphere side to win a series in New Zealand after a 32-22 triumph in the third Test.
Better than the All Blacks
“If we played New Zealand again next week, we’d probably beat them again,” O’Sullivan said on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sportsound Extra Time.
“But I think, come the World Cup, things will even up again.
“There is a lot of water to flow under the bridge between now and next year,” he added.
“Everyone gets more focused for the World Cup, but I do think we’re right up there.
“At the moment we are the better team. There’s no debating that.
“So it’s a very unusual place for New Zealand to be and a very unusual place for Ireland to be, but we’re number one in the world today for a very good reason.”
The 63-year-old addressed the concern of peaking before next year’s showpiece event, claiming that it is essential for Ireland to take these historical moments and use them to build.
“I find that a difficult conversation because you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he added.
“You can’t say, ‘we don’t want to win that Test series because we might peak too soon’.
“You’ve got to take what’s in front of you. You’ve got to take the historical moments because they will stand us in good stead down the track.
“When we play New Zealand again, they are going to be more worried than we are.
“Ireland have emerged now as a team well capable of putting together really good gameplans and executing them under pressure – and the defence has improved as well.”
The former coach is concerned with how much Farrell’s team relies on the performance of Johnny Sexton, however.
“If Johnny Sexton was to go down….. he’s absolutely key to us. There’s no saying otherwise,” he said.
“Joey Carbery, for whatever reason, hasn’t hit the straps and he was the guy we are looking to and the next man up, Jack Carty, who missed the tour through injury, wouldn’t have huge experience.
“Also, if you look at the props situation, we were fine at the end of the day, but our two props [Andrew Porter and Tadhg Furlong] had to play 70 minutes of rugby.
“Very few international teams do that, so we are struggling a little bit in terms of depth in the front row.
“Injuries, loss of form, bad luck…..all those things can hamper you, but you can’t think too much about that.
“You’ve just got to keep on building and building and putting fuel in the furnace for the next big test.”