All Blacks vulnerable after loss to Ireland, Wallabies, Peter FitzSimons

Joe Schmidt and Steve Hansen

Ireland boss Schmidt insisted afterwards, however, that All Blacks coach Hansen installing his men as World Cup favourites should be viewed as a cute ruse. With not so much as a semi-final appearance in the eight tournaments to date, Irish form at the global event is as hopelessly unimpressive as New Zealand's is persuasively strong, with their back-to-back wins in 2011 and 2015.

"We want to be as good as we can be, so we try to create our own expectation", he said. "At the same time it's been an very bad lot of hard work, there's been a lot of lessons as well, and I suppose that's what it takes to progress in worldwide rugby and professional rugby in general". This time the Ulster winger's chip was ideal, as was the bounce.

'For the second one saw that Ben Smith had come up on the outside to defend Rory Best and I saw the space in-behind.

But finally there can be real debate over which team is the world's best right now, with Ireland palpably peaking in class and belief.

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"Yeah, look. I thought it was for Tadhg (Furlong)", he laughed.

"As I said earlier in the week this was number one versus number two in the world", Hansen said. "There are always going to be teams coming up and making it tough for you but you know you're in the ballpark and can foot it with the big boys when you can eke your way through an arm-wrestle like that".

"We all know he is with us until the World Cup, I think maybe he'll give us another two years after that and then someone else will transition into the role but we all know he is a kiwi at heart". Just simply putting their hands up and admitting that they were beaten by the better team.

The All Blacks boss stuck to his word in the wake of Ireland's triumph, and even labelled Joe Schmidt's Ireland as the front-runners for next year's World Cup.

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"The depth of their experience, the number of centurions they've got - or guys with 70-80 caps - it is formidable and it would be a huge feather in these players' cap if they could topple them".

"We've got to work hard to make sure we're ready for the USA". Could they be keeping something back for the more important challenge to come? Tadhg Furlong had his opposite man Karl Tu'inukuafe in bad trouble and I think we could have went for the scrum again rather than kick to the corner just before half-time.

Ireland passed the 90-point mark for the first time last June, when they secured a series victory in Australia. "They gave us the confidence to back ourselves".

Several times, just when the All Blacks seemed to be clicking into high gear, they either dropped the ball or kicked it away.

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