Difference in this ABs team: Irish winger

Jacob Stockdale runs in to score his try for Ireland against the All Blacks this year. Photo:...
Jacob Stockdale runs in to score his try for Ireland against the All Blacks this year. Photo: Getty Images
The major difference between the All Blacks heading into next year's World Cup and the triumphant teams in 2011 and 2015 is that Kieran Read's troops have lost a crucial string to their bow - the fear factor.

That's the warning from Ireland winger Jacob Stockdale in the lead-up to the tournament in Japan.

Though the All Blacks "are still the side to beat", Ireland's victory in Dublin last month exposed cracks in their game, Stockdale said.

The 22-year-old finisher scored the only try in the 16-9 win - a sublime kick-and-chase effort after trapping fullback Damian McKenzie out of position.

In an interview with the Guardian, Stockdale also revealed the moment that broke Kiwi hearts had been five years in the making.

"It was a set play Joe [Schmidt, Ireland's Kiwi head coach] ran back in 2013," Stockdale said.

"It didn't work but that's what Joe does. If it doesn't work he'll put it into some big filofax of plays. He puts it on the back burner for a couple of years and then brings it out again."

The play was perfectly executed, with Irish first-five Johnny Sexton changing direction and midfielder Bundee Aki putting Stockdale in space with a pinpoint long pass.

Stockdale ran hard at the All Blacks' defence before deftly collecting his own kick and fending off several defenders in a push to the try line.

Beating New Zealand twice in the teams' last three clashes - Ireland made history with a 40-29 victory in Chicago in November 2016 before being thrashed 21-9 in an ill-disciplined affair in Dublin weeks later - has reinforced the belief that the Emerald Isle can win a first World Cup next year.

"It was an incredible experience to be involved in that game," Stockdale told the Guardian.

"To be the first team to beat the All Blacks in Dublin, and to get a try, was special. There's also more belief. When we lost to them in 2013 [24-22 in the last minute] there was the feeling we were holding on and trying not to let them score. This time we were trying to attack all the way through. We went after them with confidence. That's down to the coaches and senior players. They made a big impact."

Schmidt's impact in particular has been immense, Stockdale admits.

The Kaiwaka-born mentor announced shortly after the Dublin test that he would "finish coaching" after the World Cup - effectively ruling himself out of becoming Steve Hansen's successor.

"He makes sure everything you do as a team, and individually, is excellent – whether cleaning out a ruck or making a pass. He's created a culture where I go into training and know my passing needs to be nailed on and I need to be hitting rucks.

"He'll be nice and calm but he'll have a go at you whenever you need to pull your finger out."

And, yes, the Irish already have one eye on the Webb Ellis trophy nine months out from the showpiece event.

"Any player with a Tier One nation who says they're not thinking about the World Cup would be lying. You don't say: 'Hopefully we'll get to the semis and then go out.' Winning it is a massive goal," Stockdale said.

"New Zealand are still the side to beat but we've won two of our last three games against them. They have that World Cup history and experience but I don't think there's the fear of New Zealand like before. We're in a good position. We're very confident."

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