Ireland's Henshaw steps up for All Blacks challenge

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 18 Oct 2019

Ireland's Robbie Henshaw will replace banned center Bundee Aki for their quarter-final against defending champions New Zealand tomorrow.

Aki was banned for three games for a high tackle in Ireland's final pool match against Samoa. The Irish Rugby Football Union decided not to appeal the ban.

Coach Joe Schmidt named an otherwise strong side to take on the All Blacks, with Henshaw partnering Garry Ringrose in midfield.

Hooker Rory Best will skipper the team, while the experienced duo of Conor Murray and World Player of the Year Johnny Sexton were named at half-back.

"There are a host of challenges for us," admitted Schmidt. "The All Blacks are always raising the bar and everyone else is chasing the bar."

Ireland have beaten New Zealand twice in their last three fixtures, but Schmidt warned his side about resting on their laurels.

"The unfortunate thing about any 23 that comes up against the All Blacks is that they can play very well and still not get a result, that's the quality the All Blacks have, the athletes they possess," said the Kiwi.

But Schmidt said his team "knows how to get up for big games ," as they've shown in a first-ever win over New Zealand in 2016, the tour to Australia last year, and a triumph over South Africa in Cape Town two years ago. "You can't go out against an All Black side and accept you're second fiddle, you've got to put your best foot forward," he added.

As for New Zealand, Sonny Bill Williams was benched and fellow center Ryan Crotty missed out altogether in their team for the quarter-final.

In-form Anton Lienert-Brown and Jack Goodhue got the nod for the champions in midfield, coach Steve Hansen saying it had been a tough proposition to sort out his center combination.

Hansen added that Lienert-Brown had been in "really good form" and "it was a no-brainer to pick him."

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