Preview: New Zealand v Ireland

Fri, 22 Jun 2012 07:20
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Last week was surprisingly tight, but can Ireland lift themselves once again and pick up a victory over the All Blacks in Hamilton?

Last week was surprisingly tight, but can Ireland lift themselves once again and pick up a victory over the All Blacks in Hamilton?

Following their landslide victory in the first Test it appears the New Zealand thought the series would be a walk in the park, but how wrong they were. Ireland stormed back last weekend and came ever so close to causing a massive upset, with only a last gasp Dan Carter drop-goal separating the two teams.

This week New Zealand are unlikely to give Ireland an inch of breathing room and will want to assert their dominance from the word go, especially with a number of new players getting a chance to don the famous black jersey. New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has offered an opportunity to some of the fringe members of his squad to start in an effort to build up some competition for places.

Without Dan Carter there will be question marks surrounding Aaron Cruden in the No.10 jersey, but the All Blacks won the World Cup without Carter so the team are unlikely to be intimidated.

Ireland started the tour with the ambition of picking up a first ever victory over New Zealand, so with just one match left to play they won't die wondering during the 80 minutes of action. The impressive performance last weekend will have renewed hope within the side and captain Brian O'Discoll will have his men charged up and ready for battle.

Players to watch:

For New Zealand: Keep an eye on Hosea Gear on the left wing, as he is one of the best finishers in world rugby. Gear's opportunities at the highest level have been few and far between, but make no mistake - he'll want to grab hold of the No.11 jersey. Big lock forward Luke Romano has climbed through the ranks quite quickly and will offer a bruising performance in the second row. For all his hype Sonny Bill Williams has been relatively quiet in the midfield, so he'll be looking to leave a lasting impression to fend off the challenge from Ma'a Nonu for the No.12 jersey.

For Ireland: You can't look past the fearless leader Brian O'Driscoll, who is one of the rare breed of players capable of creating a moment of magic from nothing. Experienced fullback Rob Kearney came on the tour with a big reputation following a brilliant season, but hasn't really left his mark yet - perhaps he's saving the best for last and with attack from deep with his illusive running style. Up front hooker Rory Best has been one of Ireland's standout players with a tireless workrate and he adds a lot of values around the park - creating turnovers and carrying the ball into contact strongly.

Head to head: The flyhalf battle will be an intriguing one, as Jonathan Sexton had a big match last week and is a potential match winner for Ireland. Aaron Cruden has a rare chance to cement himself as heir to Carter's jersey and perhaps even put some pressure on the great man. There will also be an interesting breakdown matchup as Irish star Sean O'Brien will want to get the better of New Zealand's Sam Cane, who makes his first start for the All Blacks in the No.7 jumper.

Recent results:
New Zealand won 22-19, Christchurch
2012: New Zealand won 42-10, Auckland
2010: New Zealand won 38-18, Dublin
2010: New Zealand won 66-28, New Plymouth
2008: New Zealand won 22-3, Dublin
2008: New Zealand won 21-11, Wellington
2006: New Zealand won 27-17, Auckland
2006: New Zealand won 34-23, Hamilton
2005: New Zealand won 45-7, Dublin
2002: New Zealand won 40-8, Auckland
2002: New Zealand won 15-6, Dunedin

Prediction: If the rain comes down then Ireland will be in with a shout, but they probably blew their best chance of an upset last weekend. The All Blacks will roar back at them and settle for nothing less than a big win. All Blacks by about 15.


New Zealand:
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Richie McCaw (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brodie Retallick, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Beauden Barrett, 22 Tamati Ellison.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Declan Fitzpatrick, 18 Donncha O'Callaghan, 19 Chris Henry, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Andrew Trimble.

Date: Saturday, June 23
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Expected weather: Cloudy with a drizzle turning into rainfall with high of 13°C, dropping to 9°C.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Pascal Gauzere (France), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)

By Timmy Hancox