Friday, November 19, 2010

Preview: Ireland v New Zealand - (19/11/2010)

Ireland face a battle with their confidence after coming off a string of defeats when lining up against the All Blacks in Dublin on Sunday (NZT).

VENUE & TIME: Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Sunday November 21, 06:30 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 23 - New Zealand 22, Ireland 0, Draws 1.

LAST TIME: June 12, 2010 (New Plymouth) - New Zealand 66-28 Ireland.

Lock Brad Thorn was a late withdrawal for New Zealand when failing a fitness test after the side had been announced. He has a hamstring strain and his starting place has gone to Anthony Boric. Cory Jane is back from his shoulder injury suffered in Hong Kong. For Ireland Rob Kearney is back from the injury he suffered against South Africa and will play fullback. Fears that a dead leg might keep Cian Healy from playing have been allayed while Tom Court replaces injured Tony Buckley in the front row.

FORM: Recent Records
v Samoa won 20-10
v South Africa lost 21-23
v Australia lost 15-22
v New Zealand lost 28-66
v Scotland lost 20-23
New Zealand:
v Scotland won 49-3
v England won 26-16
v Australia won 24-26
v Australia won 23-22
v South Africa won 29-22

New Zealand found much better form against hapless Scotland last weekend and can be expected to maintain that touch against Ireland. The Irish have battled through the initial stages of the campaign to be beaten by South Africa but to have some confidence restored with a win against Samoa. But the higher level of performance from the All Blacks will have Ireland under severe pressure to keep improving if it is to have a chance.

All Blacks left wing Hosea Gear has been outstanding on tour and he gets another chance to shine on the end of a backline which has Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith restored to the midfield. First five-eighths Dan Carter's presence has been increasing with each game and he is within sniffing distance of the all-time world points scoring record. New Zealand's scrum has become a focal point as it appears to be battling for recognition for its effect on opposing scrum feeds. Hooker Hikawera Elliot has another starting chance after a fine debut last weekend. In the loose Jerome Kaino's return to complement the superb combination of Richie McCaw and Kieran Read will have Ireland scrambling. Ireland has battled for form and a changing of the guard in the inside backs appears underway with coach Declan Kidney opting for the comer at first five-eighths Jonathan Sexton has been preferred to Ronan O'Gara, and Eoin Reddan has gained favour at halfback.

2010 is unlikely to be the year in which Ireland claims the All Blacks' scalp for the first time. Dogged as the Irish resistance will be, their recent form does not encourage the prospect that they can halt an All Blacks team starting to show the best touches of their Tri Nations campaign. An added factor will be the desire to prevent Ireland breaching the All Blacks' defences as often as they did in New Plymouth. This could be a win by as many as 20 points.

1.Cian Healy, 2.Rory Best, 3.Tom Court, 4.Donncha O'Callaghan, 5.Mick O'Driscoll, 6.Stephen Ferris, 7.David Wallace, 8.Jamie Heaslip, 9.Eoin Reddan, 10.Jonathan Sexton, 11.Luke Fitzgerald, 12.Gordon D'Arcy, 13.Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 14.Tommy Bowe, 15.Rob Kearney.
Reserves: 16.Sean Cronin, 17.John Hayes, 18.Devin Toner, 19.Denis Leamy, 20.Peter Stringer, 21.Ronan O'Gara, 22.Keith Earls.

New Zealand
1.Tony Woodcock, 2.Hikawera Elliot, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Anthony Boric, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Richie McCaw, 8.Kieran Read, 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Daniel Carter, 11. Hosea Gear, 12.Ma'a Nonu, 13.Conrad Smith, 14.Cory Jane, 15.Mils Muliaina.
Reserves: 16.Andrew Hore, 17.John Afoa, 18.Samuel Whitelock, 19.Liam Messam, 20.Alby Mathewson, 21.Stephen Donald, 22.Sonny Bill Williams

REFEREE: Marius Jonker

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