Ireland Vs New Zealand Preview
Ireland play New Zealand in their first fixture since 2016 when Ireland broke their duck vs. New Zealand in Chicago before New Zealand empathically answered back two weeks later with an extremely physical approach in Dublin that saw them claim a 21-9 win in a game that will be remembered for two big hits on Robbie Henshaw by Sam Cane and a high shot on Simon Zebo by Malakai Fekitoa.
Neither incident was deemed worthy of a yellow card or red card but both incidents will be remembered by all in the Aviva that evening. To be fair though New Zealand can look to tackle by Jonathan Sexton on Beauden Barrett right on half time in the same game so both teams had the right to be aggrieved by calls in that game.
Fast forward two years and Ireland are just off the back of a Series win in Australia and a Grand Slam win back in March. Ireland are now officially 2nd in the pecking order of World Rugby at this current moment and the game this weekend won’t change the rankings but will give Ireland the perfect barometer of how far they still need to go to be serious challengers in 2019 in Japan.
It will be very interesting to see where Joe Schmidt will go with team selection , will he recall Devin Toner and what way will his back row look with the news that Sean O Brien will again be out for an extended period with a broken arm. Will Dan Leavy hold the 7 jersey or will Josh Van Der Flier be included.
Also after three auditions at scrum half who will get the shout to partner Jonathan Sexton at half back, will it be Luke Mc Grath who is his partner in crime with Leinster , will it be Schmidt’s trusted lieutenant Kieran Marmion or will John Cooney get the nod only time will tell to see where Schmidt will go with team selection.
New Zealand just got over the line last week in Twickenham winning a tight game 16-15 where a 65th minute penalty from Barrett saw them home after Sam Underhill had a try chalked off after Courtney Lawes was caught in a offside position in the build up to the Underhill try.
Steve Hansen has heaped praise on Ireland in the build up as have a few of his players but knowing how New Zealand operate , one suspects they are only paying lip service to Ireland , 1 win in 29 games is all the evidence needed to prove that little fact.
Joe Schmidt has prepared Ireland to face the country of his birth 3 times and his record is win and 2 defeats, not a bad strike rate and you can be sure he will try and put another win in the winners column this weekend.
The game is a last chance to test themselves vs. the best in the World before the World Cup. Looking to the team he may select Injury will rob him of two potential starters in Conor Murray and Robbie Henshaw but with these injuries the opportunity is there for guys to put the hand up and fight for a first team place.
Can Ireland win this weekend, of course they can, I doubt the Silver Fern holds the same fear and trepidation it did before victory in 2016. Joe Schmidt has coached this side to fear nobody and that will need to be the mantra this weekend as Ireland really get a chance to tell World Rugby that they will go to Japan and break down barriers never surpassed before like making a Semi Final but before that dream can be chased an opportunity to inflict another defeat on New Zealand.
Time to step up to the plate guys and write another piece of Irish rugby history to be in the 23 that defeated New Zealand for the first time on Irish Soil…….
Here is the 23 I would select if I had to pick the squad to face the World Champions ,
15 Andrew Conway
14 Keith Earls
13 Gary Ringrose
12 Bundee Aki
11 Jacob Stockdale
10 Jonathan Sexton
9 Luke Mc Grath
8 CJ Stander
7 Dan Leavy
6 Peter O Mahony
5 James Ryan
4 Tadgh Beirne
3 Tadgh Furlong
2 Sean Cronin
1 Cian Healy
16 Niall Scannell
17 Jack Mc Grath
18 Andrew Porter
19 Devin Toner
20 Josh Van Der Flier
21 John Cooney
22 Joey Carbery
23 Will Addison