The Rugby World Cup quarter-finals have finally arrived and one of the blockbuster encounters sees Ireland and New Zealand going head-to-head at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday.
With both sides having named their matchday squads, Planet Rugby has put together a combined XV for the clash.
Combined Ireland v New Zealand XV
15 Hugo Keenan (Ireland): The Leinsterman has been a vital cog in the Irish machine at the global showpiece as he shone at the back for Andy Farrell’s charges and comes in ahead of two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Beauden Barrett. Keenan is worthy of his place as he has shone on attack throughout the tournament, especially against Scotland where he scored two tries while also being safe under the high ball.
14 Will Jordan (New Zealand): Although Ireland‘s Mack Hansen has played well up to now, we could not ignore Jordan who has continued with his outstanding try-scoring form for the All Blacks, having crossed the whitewash on 27 occasions in 28 appearances for his country at Test level. Jordan has continued with that fine form at the World Cup and is currently in joint-third place in the try-scoring charts with four five-pointers – two adrift of the leader, France’s Damian Penaud.
13 Garry Ringrose (Ireland): Another tough call as Rieko Ioane has hardly put a foot wrong for the All Blacks but we’ve opted for Ringrose who continues to catch the eye with brilliant performances in Ireland’s midfield. The 28-year-old’s centre combination with Bundee Aki has been superb throughout the global showpiece as they have proved difficult to stop on attack and Ringrose is reaping the rewards as he has already scored three tries.
12 Bundee Aki (Ireland): The New Zealand-born centre walks into our team as he has been arguably the best player at this World Cup. The 33-year-old hit the ground running from the outset as his direct running style has proved difficult to contain and he has also impressed with his brilliant distribution skills which creates try-scoring opportunities for his team-mates. All Blacks inside centre Jordie Barrett hasn’t played much due to injury and only returned to action in the pool match with Italy.
11 James Lowe (Ireland): Another New Zealand-born Irishman who gets into our side after several outstanding displays for Ireland in their run to the play-offs and he beats out All Black speedster Leicester Fainga’anuku. Lowe was doubtful for this game after sustaining an eye injury in Ireland’s last pool game against Scotland but has been declared fit. A brilliant attacker, who reads the game well and punches above his weight on defence, he will be keen to shine in Paris.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 24, 2023
Experienced half-backs get the nod
10 Johnny Sexton (Ireland): The evergreen fly-half continues to be one of the world’s best number 10s and although Richie Mo’unga has also been superb for New Zealand, we could not select a team without Sexton in it. The 38-year-old’s playmaking skills have been superb while he has also been excellent off the kicking tee and is currently the highest points-scorer in the competition behind Thomas Ramos of France and Damian McKenzie of New Zealand.
9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand): While fellow New Zealand-born scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park has been in fine form for Ireland, it’s veteran Smith who gets the nod in our team after several outstanding displays during the three-time world champions’ 2023 campaign. Smith’s slick service to his outside backs is crucial in the implementation of their expansive style of play while he has shown at this World Cup that he still has an eye for a gap with a hat-trick of tries in the win over Italy.
8 Ardie Savea (New Zealand): The most difficult decision to make as Ireland number eight Caelan Doris has also been brilliant during his country’s campaign but Savea’s excellent all-round skill-set and athleticism gives him the edge. The 29-yer-old is the prototype of the modern day back-rower who thrives on defence and attack while his breakdown skills are also of a high standard.
7 Josh van der Flier (Ireland): World Rugby’s current Player of the Year has continued to maintain the high standards he set in 2022 and delivered the goods with his outstanding work at the breakdown while also impressing as a ball carrier and in the execution of his defensive duties. Van der Flier’s battle to the loose ball with All Blacks skipper Sam Cane will be one of the highlights of this weekend’s encounter.
6 Shannon Frizell (New Zealand): The 29-year-old missed the bulk of the All Blacks’ pool matches due to a hamstring injury but returned to action in their one-sided win over Italy and showed his class with a top class all-round performance. Frizell is renowned for his physicality as a ball carrier and on defence and is also a handy option at the back of the lineout. He beats out Ireland veteran Peter O’Mahony.
🔥 Shannon Frizell putting the gloss on that All Blacks first 15 minutes.pic.twitter.com/D61D2Cclmn
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) July 16, 2023
Strong Irish presence in the tight five
5 Scott Barrett (New Zealand): The only Barrett brother to make our team, the 29-year-old has been at the forefront of New Zealand’s forward effort for the entire season and his outstanding form has resulted in legendary All Blacks Sam Whitelock being dropped to the bench. Barrett’s physicality has been superb throughout 2023 and he has also done well in the lineouts. Ireland’s Iain Henderson just misses out.
4 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland): It’s tough on another great, All Blacks second-row Brodie Retallick, who has been solid for his country throughout the World Cup but Beirne has been one of the men from the Emerald Isle’s star performers as he has made his mark with several brilliant all-round performances. A solid lineout operator, Beirne is also dangerous at the breakdowns while his ball carrying and defensive work have also been excellent.
3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland): All Blacks tighthead prop Tyrel Lomax is a bit unlucky purely because he hasn’t played much due to successive knee injuries as he has been in fine form prior to that. However, Furlong deserves his selection as he has maintained the high standards he has displayed in recent years, being solid in the scrums and in the execution of his other core duties.
2 Dan Sheehan (Ireland): The 25-year-old was absent since picking up a foot problem in the warm-up victory over England in August but returned to action via the replacements bench during the pool match against South Africa and was back in the run-on side against Scotland. He hit the ground running as he impressed with his ball carrying ability and his direct duel with All Black Codie Taylor will be one of the highlights of the quarter-final.
1 Ethan de Groot (New Zealand): This was another tough decision as Andrew Porter has also done well for Ireland but De Groot’s presence significantly boosts the All Blacks’ pack, especially in the tight exchanges. De Groot is back after serving a two-match suspension and his return will strengthen New Zealand’s scrum while he is also a solid ball carrier, especially at close quarters.