Joe Schmidt has admitted he is “still bleeding” from Ireland’s last-gasp 24-22 defeat to New Zealand in 2013.
Ireland will host the All Blacks in Dublin on Saturday night, bidding to beat the back-to-back world champions for just the second time in history.
Ireland’s Kiwi head coach Schmidt so nearly toppled his compatriots at the Aviva Stadium five years ago, the hosts racing into a 22-7 half-time advantage only to relinquish that lead, and possible victory, at the death.
Ireland finally registered their first-ever win over New Zealand with the stunning 40-29 victory in Chicago in 2016, but Schmidt admitted that has still not eased the pain of that Dublin defeat some five years back.
“I’d be delighted if we can be as competitive as the last three times we’ve played them,” Schmidt said.
“The fact that the points differential between us is so narrow.
“The game in 2013: I’m still bleeding from that.
“It hurts when that happens. Chicago was a great band aid, but two weeks later we were very, very much in the game, and it was very tough, very, very tough.
“As physical as it was against Argentina, playing against New Zealand has been a step up.
“But at the same time I’m well aware of the challenges the All Blacks present.
“It has such little to do with me, I think I step back on a Thursday and from then it’s really player-driven.”
Ireland lost the luckless Sean O’Brien to a broken arm in Saturday’s patchy 28-17 victory over Argentina in Dublin.
Head coach Schmidt admitted his relief at having two quality opensides in Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier waiting in the wings to fill the sizeable chasm left by O’Brien’s latest injury absence.
“We have a few good sevens, with Josh having gone well in Chicago,” Schmidt said.
“It’s a tough decision for us during the week, which is exactly what we want.
“We’ve got a few options, and you have Tadhg Beirne, who is half a second row and half a back-row.
“So it’s an uncomfortable decision that’s going to have to be made, but it does add comfort knowing that Dan is there on the back of a couple of good hit-outs and could slot straight back in as well as he did.
“And I don’t anticipate it being too different in future.
“He spent some time with us in the Six Nations and was in Australia too. To have that there is important for us.
“I’ll have a decent look again at this game (Argentina) and make some decisions off the back of that.
“And we’ll look at guys coming back and how they go on Monday and Tuesday, to get them in the mix.
“At the moment, I’ve certainly learned not to make too many impetuous decisions.”