Luke Fitzgerald: 'I felt it was unlikely Ireland would beat All-Blacks'

Luke Fitzgerald: 'I felt it was unlikely Ireland would beat All-Blacks'

Former Ireland winger Luke Fitzgerald has stated that he felt Ireland was unlikely to beat the All-Blacks in Paris. Both sides played a humdinger of a game in the Stade de France, but it was New Zealand that won the contest 24-28 on the night.

The result now means Ireland is out of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals once again, while New Zealand heads into another semi-final against Argentina.

Ireland were confident going into the game and was well-fancied to break their quarter-final hoodoo on Saturday, but according to Fitzgerald, he had the opposite feeling heading into the game.

"I felt it was unlikely Ireland would win that game; I had that feeling of dread. I felt it was quite simple for New Zealand to defend against what we were doing. Ireland needed a try, that was a big problem. Ian Foster looked fairly animated in his box, but he seemed relatively calm, and I think he knew they would come through the 30-plus phases. They defended well, they had great experience and physicality coming off the bench as well, which really made a difference too.

"The closer they got to the line, New Zealand knew they had to carry through them and couldn't kick or try something different even. They picked and chose which rucks to attack; they kept 15 men on the line, and I thought they did it brilliantly. I thought they did it brilliantly all game as well. Ireland perhaps over-committed to certain phases as well."

Despite it being another exit from the tournament, the former Leinster and Ireland winger believes that it was a 'heroic' performance from the Irish team. Ireland was denied a try near the end after 37 phases of play. At no point did Ireland crumble and die in the contest. This impressed Fitzgerald greatly.

"There were two or three times in the game, at maximum, where Ireland got a turnover to relieve any sort of pressure. It is usually a real strength for them, but New Zealand's attacking rucking was brilliant and it gave them such a platform to attack Ireland. They gave Ireland so few opportunities, really aggressive in their play as well. That was where the game was won and lost for me, the set-pieces and the aerial game from New Zealand were some of the best I have seen them play for a long time as well," he added.

"Normally, Ireland dominated that area as well, so they were all key moments in the game. Ireland still probably should have won the game. I don't know how they missed that opportunity at the end and then being held up at the line in such a good position. It was a heroic performance from Ireland, and I think everyone at home will be so proud of the performance, but I still feel as though they should have won it."

Fitzgerald was speaking to Lucky Block