Ireland's Conor Murray has claimed that Ireland's acquisition of former New Zealand players Bundee Aki, Jamison Gibson-Park, and James Lowe is Ireland's gain and New Zealand's loss.
Ireland and the All-Blacks will play each other in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final this Saturday, and for the three players mentioned, the game holds added weight.
Aki, Gibson-Park, and Lowe, at one time, were all around the New Zealand fringes, but due to the country's excellent player pool, they decided to resume their rugby journey elsewhere, to places like Ireland. All three qualified for Ireland due to World Rugby's residency rule.
The three players have become central figures for Ireland under Andy Farrell and are expected to play a big part in the game on Saturday.
Murray has praised his teammates for their contribution to the current Irish team.
"Those three boys are so important to our squad," he said. "What they did, taking the chance to come over here and start a new life for themselves and prove themselves, all three of them have really done so.
"They’re three world-class players who we’re really going to rely on heavily and have performed unbelievably well in this competition. It hasn’t really been mentioned, the New Zealand thing. They’re part of our Irish team now and they’re really important to us.
"I’m sure there’s a part of them, that little bit extra that they want to get one over on their place of birth, but they’re fully part of our Irish squad now."
— RTÉ Rugby (@RTErugby) October 12, 2023
Bundee Aki has become one of Ireland's best players at this year's World Cup after a period of uncertainty. A huge contrast from his 2019 tournament. The 33-year-old was sent off against Samoa in that tournament.
Murray gave special mention to the 'incredible' Aki.
"I hate saying it, but he’s been playing the rugby of his life," Murray added. "He can come across as a bit of a messer or jolly fella, but behind the scenes, Bundee is incredible.
"The level of detail, he’s always on the computers and always trying to figure things out, so he’s actually a smart fella, believe it or not."
Ireland's last win over New Zealand came in the 2022 summer series in their own backyard. However, Ireland and New Zealand have met twice previously at the World Cup; during the pool stages of the 1995 tournament and in the quarter-finals of the 2019 tournament. The All Blacks won those matches 43-19 and 46-14, respectively.
Murray, who has been part of every win against New Zealand, now believes that Ireland has the skillset to inflict another defeat on the three-time winners this weekend.
"I’ve played against the All Blacks where we’ve beaten them, but when we play them again, they’re a completely different animal," he said. "When I started off my international career, playing against New Zealand was really daunting and it still is, but did we really expect to beat them is questionable, whereas now there’s definitely a bit more belief."
Date: Saturday 14th October 2023
Venue: Stade de France, Paris
Kick-off: 8:00pm (9:00pm local)
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
TV Coverage: Live on ITV (UK), RTÉ and Virgin Media (ROI)