Sydney (AFP) – Coach Joe Schmidt says he is looking forward to testing Ireland against the mighty New Zealand All Blacks later this year after their epic series victory in Australia.
The well-drilled Irish came from a game down to win the series with a 20-16 win in Saturday’s final match for their first three-Test victory in the southern hemisphere, adding to their Grand Slam Six Nations triumph earlier this year.
Ireland, who trail only world champions New Zealand in the international standings, had not won a series in Australia since they swept a two-Test tour in 1979.
Now New Zealander Schmidt is looking for a crack at the All Blacks in Dublin in November on the back on the titanic series win in Australia.
“I feel that potentially we were a little bit fortuitous and the margins are so fine,” he said after Saturday’s victory.
“I didn’t think we were far off in Brisbane (first Test) either. It’s been a fantastic series.”
Ireland finished a memorable season ranked only behind the All Blacks, whom they toppled 40-29 in Chicago in 2016.
“For me personally, the All Blacks… (are) a little bit special because my mum’s such a big fan of the All Blacks,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt praised Michael Cheika’s Wallabies, who outscored the Irish six tries to three over the three Tests with the total points level at 55-55.
“It is a credit to (the) players, they dug in just well enough. I’m pretty pleased there is not a game next week -– that might have been a bridge too far,” he said.
“But the Wallabies are going in the other direction, they have got fuel in the tank and I think they are building.”
Schmidt hailed his side’s capacity to thrive in adversity as they overcame injuries to beat Australia.
The Irish lost Dan Leavy, Garry Ringrose, Iain Henderson and Andrew Conway to injury early in the week. Sean Cronin pulled out on the eve of the game with a hamstring injury, and skipper Peter O’Mahony was forced off with a head injury after 31 minutes.
Schmidt said late changes “unsettle the rhythm a bit” but it was a “testament to depth in certain positions that we have that guys step up and do a good job”.
“They were coming in waves and we managed to keep them out.”