Pulses running high ahead of Ireland-All Blacks clash15/06/2012 - 23:39:00
By Rory Keane
Oh boy. If Ireland were up against it last weekend then they face the mother of all tasks in Christchurch this weekend. The All Blacks will playing their first test in the earthquake-ravaged city in almost two years.
Considering the sizable Canterbury contingent in the All Blacks ranks, there is no doubt that pulses will be running high come kick-off time on Saturday night.
The future of the region was changed utterly at 12.51pm on a seemingly normal Tuesday back in February of last year when a powerful quake struck and virtually wiped out half the city in a heartbeat.
It was the worst natural disaster to occur in New Zealand’s short history with the final death toll reaching 185. The people of Christchurch, who have tried to move on with their lives, have had to contend with almost 11,000 aftershocks and counting since that tragic day.
Ireland must bring out best effort early on
Therefore, a fired-up New Zealand team will surely come firing out of the blocks against Declan Kidney’s men. Steven Hansen’s men will slow to slow to warm up in Auckland, but expect a power-packed opening 20 minutes from the men in black.
Without trying to state the bleedin' obvious, it is imperative that Ireland start well on the Christchurch turf. Then again, Brian O’Driscoll and co. started like a train at Eden Park but wilted after Julian Savea’s opening touchdown.
If Ireland can cut down the errors and tighten up their kicking game, allied to a more aggressive chase, then they stand a chance of being in with a shout at half-time…but that’s a big if.
Declan Kidney has made several changes to his starting team in a bid to freshen things up ahead of the second meeting with the world champions.
Simon Zebo, after a promising debut last time out, makes way for the experienced and ultra-aggressive Andrew Trimble who was unlucky to be omitted for the Auckland showdown.
Trimble’s “in your face” style was sorely missed against the high-octane Kiwi attack that was afforded far too much space.
Gordon D’Arcy renews his long-term partnership with Brian O’Driscoll having been left out of the matchday 22 for the opening test for the injured Keith Earls who was arguably Ireland’s best player in the 42-10 loss.
D’Arcy has traditionally struggled against larger centres in recent times namely the likes of Aurelian Rougerie and Jamie Roberts and it doesn’t get any easier against man-mountain Sonny Bill Williams in Canterbury.
Williams was a handful, if not spectacular, in game one and you get the feeling the backdoor flicks and audacious offloads may come into play more in Christchurch if the All Blacks get into their rhythm early.
One factor that is working in Ireland’s favour is that the weather has been appalling in this south island city for most of the week and looks set to continue into the weekend.
It’s not like Richie McCaw and his pack will lack the necessary grunt to take on Ireland, but at least it means a wet ball for the ikes of Israel Dagg and Savea which would be a blessing against what is not the quickest Irish back three on paper.
The Irish pack will need to step it up this week. Having Mike Ross back to anchor the scrum will be a huge bonus while Kevin McLaughlin if fully deserving of his spot on the blindside.
This Irish team really struggled with the pace of the Kiwi attack last time out. Ireland’s line speed and general defensive game was surprisingly sluggish but as many players explained after the game, it’s hard to get in your opponents faces when you’re on the back foot.
So what do Ireland need to do this weekend to have any semblance of a fighting chance. Well, they need to up their intensity, with or without the ball, by at least 50 per cent. A repeat of last weekend’s passive performance will be punished severely in Christchurch whether its raining cats and dogs or not.
How to that after almost of year of non-stop rugby is anyone’s guess but as this team found out to their peril in Auckland, you give these guys an inch and they will take the proverbial mile.
The people of Christchurch have been waiting for this game for a long time, the home side will be looking to put on a show – can Ireland spoil the party?
Prediction: Ireland will improve on last week’s display, but New Zealand will still be far too good. The All Blacks by 20-25.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Zac Guildford, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Ali Williams, 19 Sam Cane, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Ben Smith.
Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll (c), 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip. 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 Peter O'Mahony, 20 Eoin Reddan, 21 Ronan O'Gara, 22 Simon Zebo.
more stories like this:
- once per day, no spam.