Aaron Smith warns Ireland that All Blacks are a different beast to last year

Aaron Smith warns Ireland that All Blacks are a different beast to last year

Scrumhalf Aaron Smith insists New Zealand are a completely different team to the one defeated by Ireland in 2022 ahead of a mouth-watering World Cup quarter-final.

Ireland have enjoyed the upper hand in recent clashes with the formidable All Blacks, winning three of four meetings during the Andy Farrell era, including last summer's landmark 2-1 tour success.

Smith started each of the three Tests - in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington - and feels a rare humbling on home soil "galvanised" Ian Foster's side.

The 34-year-old has little interest in the past and is fully focused on writing a new chapter in the history books on Saturday evening in Paris.

"Last year matters in the sense of taking the learnings," said Smith.

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"But I believe we're a totally different team to July last year. We've got new coaches and as a group that series really galvanised us. I can't wait for Saturday to see what happens.

"We're at a World Cup, we're playing in a final and it's all on the line. History is history and history's going to get created on Saturday and we'll see who comes out on top."

Ireland propelled themselves to the top of the world rankings on the back of their historic series win and have remained there ever since.

The milestone achievement also kick-started a remarkable run of 17 successive victories for the Six Nations Grand Slam holders.

Yet three-time champions New Zealand hold the far superior World Cup record and condemned the Irish to a familiar last-eight exit with a thumping 46-14 win at the 2019 tournament in Japan.

The All Blacks' class of 2023 are out to avoid early elimination and becoming statistically their country's worst World Cup team.

"My energy is pushed towards more the opportunity that's in front of us," said Smith, who helped knock out Ireland in Tokyo four years ago by claiming two of seven Kiwi tries.

"The excitement of what we can control as a group.

"If you're held down by the weight of the past, you won't be able to do anything, you won't be able to play well, you'll be too scared to do anything, to try things, to trust your instincts.

"Being free, being energised with intent (is important) - and there's plenty of intent and want this weekend.

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"I don't think there's the burden or the statistics or the weight on us like that. It's a final at a World Cup for us and we're ready to go."

An intriguing sub-plot is the presence of former Ireland boss Joe Schmidt among New Zealand's coaching staff.

Speaking of Schmidt, All Blacks centre Rieko Ioane said: "Joe, he sees the game from a very detailed view, especially with us backs.

"His work in noticing trends in other teams' attack and defence is sort of what separates him and just the detail he goes into.

"For us, trying to find those one per centers can be quite hard but with Joe he makes the view of the game a lot easier by the way he understands it.

"He's definitely helped us quite a bit."

Smith added: "I agree with Rieko. He (Schmidt) always has clips to show you if you ask, so you've got to be careful what you ask him because it could cost you 20 minutes!

"The last 18 months, I've really enjoyed connecting with him."

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