Former Ireland No10 and current Crusaders assistant coach Ronan O'Gara says his countrymen now have a depth in terms of playing resources that has completely transformed them as an rugby force.
For this O'Gara has paid credit to Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, a New Zealander who has helped the national team up to No2 on World Rugby's ranking system. In fact, had the All Blacks lost heavily to the Wallabies at Yokohama last weekend, the Irish would have been in with a chance of knocking New Zealand from the No1 position they've held since 2009.
"Probably in every position now there are three options while before you wouldn't have two options," O'Gara told Off The Ball.
"Schmidt's level of detail he brings to the whole set-up is under-appreciated.
"We should be very, very grateful for what this man has done ... Joe's work rate and drive is huge."
Schmidt is a chance to succeed Steve Hansen as All Blacks coach if and when Hansen calls it quits after next year's World Cup. The former Bay of Plenty head coach and Blues assistant has added a structure and depth to Irish rugby that previously their supporters could only dream of.
Under his reign they have beaten the All Blacks for the first time and they will provide a stern challenge in Dublin in a fortnight, the All Blacks facing them at Aviva Stadium after they play England at Twickenham next weekend.
However, O'Gara, who enjoyed a hugely successful first year at the Crusaders alongside head coach Scott Robertson this year, added that the All Blacks would be fearsome opponents and had shown huge resilience in beating the Springboks in Pretoria recently.
"You could see South Africa were up emotionally and they had great detail and intensity in their game [in Wellington]," O'Gara said.
"But it's interesting the fact that no team has beaten them back to back [recently].
"The All Blacks are the standard bearers. They are the best in the world, their World Cup record is incredible, and they are a likeable team in that they go for it and they have great skill. But at the same time, of course, they can be beaten."
O'Gara added that the loss of halfback Conor Murray to injury could hurt Ireland against the All Blacks in Dublin. Murray was a major reason why the British and Irish Lions secured a drawn series against the All Blacks last year.