Medal winners with Munster and London Wasps last month, both Marcus Horan and Eoin Reddan echoed each other’s thoughts when they talked about the importance of Ireland beating New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday.
This will be Marcus Horan’s third time facing the All Blacks. The first saw him score a try in a disappointing 45-7 defeat at Lansdowne Road in November 2005.
He toured Down Under with the Irish squad the following summer, playing his part in two memorable but losing performances – the hosts claimed 34-23 and 27-17 wins in Hamilton and Auckland respectively.
Asked what would a victory on Saturday mean to the current Ireland set-up, Horan admitted: “It would be massive for us. Ultimately this team is about winning silverware and going beyond what we’ve achieved before.
“Definitely beating New Zealand would be something this Irish team hasn’t done and would be a step on the road to something greater.
“You’re always looking forward to the next chance you get of silverware. I think that’s what this team is about.”
The showdown between the scrums in Wellington will be crucial and Horan, part of an oft criticised Irish front row, knows the visitors’ set piece will be under the microscope once again.
“People have this idea of it (Ireland’s scrum) being weak or whatever. I don’t know where it came from. If critics sat down and watched tapes of us, I’d love to see them pointing out how and where (it goes wrong).
“You have good days and bad days at the office but we’ve been pretty consistent over the years and I’m very happy with where we’re at, and what we’ve achieved.”
At provincial and international levels, Horan has put in some excellent work in scrums. The Clare man was literally to the forefront as the Irish scrum put France’s forward under immense pressure during the closing stages of the sides’ Six Nations clash in February.
Drawing encouragement from moments like that, he added: “We relish the challenges that are ahead of us, but we get a great buzz out of turning teams over in the scrum. It gives us a lift. The New Zealand scrum is another massive challenge for us.”
There is a bit of a feelgood factor back in the Irish squad after the silverware garnered by both Leinster and Munster, while first choice scrum half Eoin Reddan also collected a Guinness Premiership winners’ medal with London Wasps.
“After the season a lot of guys have been through and the disappointments, it was a huge boost (for Munster to beat Toulouse and win the Heineken Cup). I’m just glad for Irish rugby in general,” Horan insisted.
“Irish rugby is in good form. I just think when you’re battling hard and things are not always going to go your way, you do need the support of the Irish people around you.
“I don’t think that was there maybe this year. A lot of people jumped on the bandwagon of slating fellas. I think hopefully we’ve bounced back from that.”
Reddan, who will be playing against the All Blacks for the first time, feels Ireland’s players have the ability to kick on after the province’s successes.
“We’ve got a team of players who win things, and enjoy winning things. And that’s what they judge themselves on,” said the Limerick-born number 9.
“Performance is a measure of success, but there is no measure of success like winning.
“That’s why the trophies and the leagues are there in the first place – otherwise they would have a judging panel who could say who had played the best rugby at the end of the year, which wouldn’t be any good.
“Everything is based on winning and losing, so for us to get a measure for where we’re at, it will be to win (this weekend).”
While agreeing that the pressure is off Ireland to a certain extent, Reddan suggested that ‘at the same time, you expect to win and put pressure on yourself.’
“We’ve got a team full of individual belief, and it’s about getting a collective belief now.
“I’ve played more than 30 competitive games this year – all of them high level and most of them must-win games – and as a half-back, it’s key to your development as a player and to your form,” he added.