All Blacks put target on Sexton's back

Sat, 05 Nov 2016 07:11

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: New Zealand captain Kieran Read says the All Blacks will target Ireland halfbacks Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton when the two nations battle it out at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.

The All Blacks will start as overwhelming favourites to extend their record 18-match winning streak against the Irish, who have never beaten New Zealand in more than a century of trying.

Read, however, is wary of the threat posed by scrumhalf Murray and flyhalf Sexton, who resume their potent alliance behind the scrum.

"They're a structured side and they use the nine and 10 to direct them around the field really well," Read told reporters on the sidelines of New Zealand's final training session.

"So we've just got to try and upset that as much as we can and not let them get too much momentum."

The All Blacks are also devising a plan to shackle Ireland second row Devin Toner, the athletic 2.10-metre lock who will tower over the rest of the line-out.

"He doesn't change the way we'll approach our line-outs," Read said. "But obviously on their ball he's going to be a big target for them. We've just got to get up and put as much pressure on him as we can."

New Zealand will tackle Toner with both of their first choice second row players - Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick - missing through injury. Luke Romano is also absent after flying home from Chicago this week following a family bereavement.

It has left New Zealand starting with a new-look pairing in the engine room of the pack, with loose forward Jerome Kaino starting alongside Pat Tuipulotu at lock.

Read said Kaino had adapted well to the challenge of starting his 75th Test match in a new position.

"His ears are a bit sore," Read joked. "He's excited by the challenge. It's his first start in a foreign jersey but he's excited. He's been willing to do everything for the boys. He's got a zip in his step which is awesome to see."

Agence France-Presse