Ireland has had many reasons to celebrate in the arena of sport lately, not the least of which is their current win streak against New Zealand rugby foes. They’ve also taken a very serious shot at hosting the Rugby World Cup for 2023.
What better way to help secure that bid with back-to-back victories over the All Blacks? It’s something that Ireland believe they are very capable of doing.
“I think we did well in the last game to limit the amount of offloads they got,” said Irish lock Devin Toner. “They sort of thrive on that kind of stuff so if we can get in their face and negate all that sort of stuff, we should be okay.”
All Blacks flanker Sam Cane admits that the loss was a tough pill to swallow the first time around.
“You see, that’s not what we are about, that’s pretty poor footy. He (coach Steve Hansen) didn’t brush over anything. There was certainly an uncomfortable feel in the room, which was good.”
For his part, Hansen is not above self-reproach. “What could I do better? We are not panicking. We have lost a game before. We are not too bad at learning, so we will see how we go on Saturday.”
Jerome Kaino has been ruled out of the test due to a calf strain, but second-row partners Brodie Retalick and Sam Whitelock both resume starting duties for the All Blacks.
Meanwhile for Ireland, world-class scrum-half Conor Murray is expected to play despite injury concerns coming from their victory over New Zealand at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Murray missed last week’s match against Canada, but returned to full training this week.
Given the nature of the last two encounters, this should be a match for the ages. The 15-minute preview below should set the mood. Do you think Ireland can do it again?
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Jack McGrath, 2 Rory Best (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Devin Toner, 6 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 8 Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Paddy Jackson, 23 Garry Ringrose.
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith; 1 Joe Moody, 2 Dane Coles, 3 Owen Franks, 4 Brodie Retallick, 5 Sam Whitelock, 6 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 8 Kieran Read (c). Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Waisake Naholo.
Credit: The Tight Five Rugby Union