Rugby: Huge black mark gone from Irish rugby, says Keith Wood

Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood presents Kieran Read with the World Rugby Team of the Year 2016 Award. Photo / Getty Images
Former Ireland hooker Keith Wood presents Kieran Read with the World Rugby Team of the Year 2016 Award. Photo / Getty Images

Former Ireland captain Keith Wood feels a huge weight has finally been lifted from Irish rugby's shoulders after finally defeating the All Blacks two weeks ago.

"It becomes important at times to look back a little, and the level of, almost embarrassment, of Irish players that have played and lost consistently to New Zealand in the past", said Wood, who lined up for Ireland 58 times.

"That's a huge black mark on our rugby history and the fact that it's now gone is great but it'll be great and better again if we can manage to turn over the All Blacks tomorrow. Hopefully it'll take not a huge amount more before we get another Irish victory.

"It was something that upset every guy who'd ever played against the All Blacks and hadn't won, and hadn't had the opportunity to do it and hadn't done it."

Wood was in attendance when Ireland made history, beating the All Blacks 40-29 in Chicago.

"Standing in the crowd in Soldier Field in Chicago, I'm happy to say that I was there on the day that Ireland finally did it. That embarrassment is now over," Wood said. "The quality of the performance on the day was brilliant, the reaction of the Irish players and the Irish fans and the All Blacks players and fans afterwards was fantastic. There was the proper level of respect and humility on all sides and it was pretty cool. It was a very special day.

"It's going to be very hard to replicate that even though we're back at home so I'm really looking forward to Lansdowne at the weekend, I just think it's going to be something extraordinary."

The former Lions rake believes that complacency won't be an issue for Ireland, and they will try and carry over the aggression they played with in their last meeting with the All Blacks.

"There was a shackle on the backs of the players. They've gotten over that and that's fantastic. Do they go back into their shell? Or, do they say no, the opportunity is there to back it up, and I know that the latter is the view they want to have."

With Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock returning to the lineup to fill an important gap that Ireland exploited, the All Blacks lineout woes may be amended. Wood has no doubt this will make things tougher for Ireland.

"For me, that was the one area I said 'that's where we have to attack, that's where we have to exploit that weakness'. Suddenly you're looking at guys like Jerome Kaino who isn't normally in the second row, and you put a guy that's 6'10" in front of him, it becomes very hard to thread that needle from afar," said Wood.

"In times past, if they [the All Blacks] get a turnover they can have a go and get down the other end of the field. Ireland's defence was excellent. And also in times past thay'd get a penalty, they'd kick it into touch, guarantee their lineout and have an attacking platform somewhere inside the Ireland half. They couldn't really do that because of the lack of tall timber."

Wood had high praise for Retallick, who missed the historic test against Ireland after suffering a concussion.

"I think Brodie Retallick in particular is one of my favourite players to watch play. Big bruising guy, very very capable, very good in the lineout but his interplay around the field is just phenomenal. I think he makes it much, much tougher for Ireland tomorrow."

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