Woodward predicts Northern Hemisphere advantage in knockouts
Former England coach and the only man to lead a northern hemisphere side to Rugby World Cup glory, Sir Clive Woodward, says that Six Nations teams will take out each quarterfinal this weekend.
In his Daily Mail column, Woodward said Ireland was playing on a different level to every other team at the World Cup, and France was the only side close to them.
"I can't see New Zealand beating Ireland if Andy Farrell's side reproduce the sort of performance they delivered against Scotland.
"What a job [Andy] Farrell has done. He is clearly a wonderful coach but has also put a great team around him in Paul O'Connell, Simon Easterby and Mike Catt.
"Everything Ireland did against Scotland was world-class. Often their rugby looks so simple and that is the highest compliment I can pay them. Johnny Sexton is playing the best rugby of his life at 38 and Ireland's back three is so dangerous."
Woodward said Ireland reminded him of his 2003 England team who went to New Zealand and won ahead of the tournament when they were world No1 and Six Nations Grand Slam champion.
"Bundee Aki against Jordie Barrett will be an amazing contest in midfield, but Ireland will have too much.
"One of the most impressive aspects of their game is how fast they start, which will be crucial against New Zealand – they'll want to get double digits on the board in the first 20 minutes."
Irish Daily Mail sportswriter Shane McGrath said Ireland's New Zealand tour with three Tests and two games against the Māori All Blacks was intended to replicate the pressures of a World Cup, and they would be counting on that experience in Paris.
Lock Tadhg Beirne acknowledged that in the Irish Daily Mail.
"It's not just about the opponents; it's more about the actual week, those weeks where you have to win. We lost the first Test and knew going into the second Test that we had to win or the tour was over.
"That's what will stand to us, the pressure of those things."
McGrath said, "New Zealand have had weeks to anticipate this match, and it's easy to imagine Joe Schmidt ransacking footage, and his own notes from his time in Dublin, long before their pool had been completed. They will be ready – but they'll have to be, because Ireland are a terrific team, good enough to win this World Cup."
McGrath said Ireland would need every fit starter and felt the All Blacks' response to their loss to France in the opening game was in danger of being under-valued.
"Namibia, Italy and Uruguay hardly qualify as the diary from hell, but the All Blacks have shown a sharpness in attack that is redolent of their best days.
"They are not the team of 2015; their pack can look creaky, and they do not have the resources they once did.
"Yet they have a former Ireland scrum coach in charge of their set-piece in Greg Feek, with his insider knowledge only adding to the intelligence that Schmidt will provide to Ian Foster and his players in coming days.
"The quarterfinal is a coin toss, as Ireland competes with rugby's monarchs as equals. That, in itself, is proof of progress, but incremental advances won't do from here on in.
"The World Cup is now cold, and merciless, and thrilling."